The harrowing reality of reporting rape: Documentary examining low conviction rates tells how victim ‘wishes she hadn’t reported attack’ and felt SHE was the person on trial

  • The Channel 4 documentary explores staggeringly low conviction rates for rape 
  • Follows real life cases investigated by Avon & Somerset Police over two years 
  • One horrific case saw a teenager followed off the bus by a known sex-offender 
  • Another saw a 19-year-old raped by her mother’s boyfriend who took his own life 

A harrowing documentary examining low rape conviction rates has revealed how one victim ‘wished she hadn’t reported’ the alleged attack after she felt like she was on trial. 

Featuring powerful testimony from victims, Rape: Who’s on Trial which airs tonight on Channel 4, explores the staggeringly low conviction rates for sexual offences by following Avon and Somerset Police over two years.

One woman, who says she was raped after meeting a man in a toilet cubical, revealed she felt like she was on trial – rather than her alleged abuser. 

She said she ‘wished she hadn’t reported’ her alleged assault to the police after they decided there wasn’t enough evidence to investigate the case.    

In other cases explored on the Channel 4 documentary police say they thought they had a ‘very strong case’ in support on women who had reported sexual assault, but the alleged perpetrators were later found not guilty in court. 

In the year to March 2020, just 1.4 per cent of rape cases recorded by police resulted in a suspect being charged in the UK – and two of the cases in the show ended with the suspect going free, one without enough evidence to charge the man at all. 

Featuring powerful testimony from victims, Rape: Who’s on Trial, explores the low conviction rates for sexual offences by following Avon & Somerset Police over two years. Stock image

Another case featured revealed body cam footage of a 19-year-old girl, terrified in the back of a police car saying her mother’s drunk boyfriend had snuck into her bedroom and raped her in her bed.

In one phone call to police the mother of a 16-year-old girl can be heard saying her daughter was followed by a stranger off the bus and forced to perform oral sex under the threat of violence.  

The documentary shines a light on women whose reports didn’t even lead to a charge. 

Another case from Bath, shows a woman reported a sexual assault on a night out after meeting a man in a pub, exchanging numbers and going inside the toilets together. 

The woman claims that while she willingly met the man in the male toilet cubical, she had not consented to him performing sexual acts on her. However the man alleged the physical contact was mutual and consensual. 

After police investigated the case further, discovering intimate photos had been sent to the alleged perpetrator, detectives decided that they could not prove beyond doubt that the man was guilty of assaulting her. 

‘It’s definitely affected me as a person, not in a nice way,’ she said. ‘I have had quite a few panic attacks, I think I have less confidence overall now. 

In the year to March 2020, just 1.4 per cent of rape cases recorded by police resulted in a suspect being charged in the UK. Pictured, Constable Mandy Claridge and Detective Constable Dale Morgan

‘I’ve definitely not been going out as much. They wanted my phone and at that point I knew they were doing it to get more information, but I felt I was a little bit on trial. Are they looking at my life? That felt very intrusive. 

‘I wish I hadn’t of reported it, because it affects your life so much and then to get a phone call to say they’re not taking it any further because it doesn’t meet their point threshold, it’s just like okay. Yeah.’  

In another case, two women claimed they were raped by the same man in a Bristol hotel after a night out. 

In one woman’s account to police, she alleged she had woken up to find a stranger in their room who proceeded to have non-consensual sex with both her and her friend. 

After two years, the man was charged with the rape of both women. He claimed that he had met the two women when they were returning to their room and the sex was consensual. 

Rape: Who’s On Trial? will air on Channel 4, Monday 9pm. Pictured, Detective Constable Dale Morgan and Constable Mandy Claridge

How common is rape in the UK?  Cases soared to a new record last year in England and Wales

Rape cases soared to a new record last year in England and Wales while the number of reported sex offences hit the second-highest level ever, new figures revealed last week. 

There were 61,158 rapes recorded in the year to June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

This was the highest ever recorded annual figure to date and included 17,285 offences between April and June – also the highest quarterly figure.

The second highest number of sexual offences was also recorded in the 12 months to June (164,763), an 8 per cent increase compared to the previous year. 

This was driven by the highest ever recorded quarterly figure (48,553) for the same three-month period in 2021. Rape accounted for 37 per cent of all sexual offences recorded by police.

Nick Stripe, head of crime statistics at the ONS, said the police figures show a ‘large increase in the recording of rape and sexual offences during the latest April to June 2021 quarter’, but urged caution when interpreting the data.

He added: ‘The rise could be due to an increase in victim reporting as lockdowns eased, an increase in the number of victims, or to an increase in victims’ willingness to report incidents, potentially as a result of high-profile cases and campaigns in recent times.’

The police recorded 846,235 offences (not including fraud crimes) flagged as domestic abuse-related for the 12-month period, representing a 6% increase from 813,958 offences in the previous year.

This included 687,328 offences of violence against the person labelled as domestic abuse-related, a 7 per cent increase compared to the previous year.

The ONS said it is ‘difficult to determine’ the levels of domestic abuse in the country using police recorded data because of changes in the way the crimes are reported so ‘we cannot conclude whether there has been an increase in the number of victims of domestic abuse’.

But it added: ‘Data from victim services suggests that experiences of domestic abuse may have intensified during periods of national lockdown and that victims faced difficulties in safely seeking support under these conditions.’

The ONS stressed domestic abuse-related crimes and sexual offences recorded by police ‘do not provide a reliable measure of trends in these types of crime’ as improvements in police recording practices and increased reporting by victims have contributed to rises in recent years.’

It added: ‘The figures do, however, provide a good measure of the crime-related demand on the police.’

CCTV footage showed the man earlier in the evening going along the corridor trying to open door handles before the two girls arrived in the foyer. 

It shows the two women arriving in the lobby, where the man is sat down alone, and the man following the pair upstairs. 

‘There is the point where one of the girls does lean towards the suspect it’s called a long distance view on CCTV, it does look like there’s a potential kiss, but within ten seconds that girl collapses on the floor’, says detective Dale Morgan. 

Footage then shows the man entering the room where he and the women remained for three hours before leaving without his t-shirt on. 

After a four-day trial in which both the women gave their testimony, and the defendant denied any non-consensual sex, the jury came to the unanimous decision of not guilty on both counts of rape. 

‘I wasn’t planning for this eventuality, I thought we had a very strong case,’ said detective Morgan. 

Speaking after the verdict, the woman who brought the case to police said: ‘The two us just sort of sat there in shock. I think you do feel very empty in that moment to be honest it’s a bit of a blur and it’s taken a few days for it to sink in. 

‘The rage, I’m really angry. I was angry then, I’m angry now. I feel utterly betrayed by society, It’s not even the system, it was the jury.’

In another case in Birmingham, a 16-year-old schoolgirl was raped on her way home by a male in his early 20s after he followed her off the bus, approached her and used threats to coerce her into masturbating him and performing oral sex. 

In a disturbing phone call detailing the ordeal to the police, she is heard saying: ‘He said “You’re going to give me a hand job”. 

‘I said “No I really don’t want to, please can I just go”, and he said “No you’re going to do it” and unzipped his trousers and took down his pants. 

‘Then said “Put your hand on my penis and give me a hand job” so I started doing that and after about a minute or so he said, “Now you need to suck me d***” and I was like “No” and he threatened me again.’  

Working backwards from CCTV footage, constable Mandy Claridge and her team track the suspect to obtain a clearer image of him, launching a public appeal for the alleged perpetrator. 

A break in the case came 12 days after the initial incident when a shaken up woman phoned the police to report being harassed late at night in an area nearby the crime scene, recording the incident on her phone. 

‘Why are you following me?’, she says to the stranger. ‘You’re threatening me, what is your problem?’ 

The man, described as wearing a black hat and a green jacket, can be heard ‘Do you want me to do it yes or no?’

Constable Claridge was given a tip that the perpetrator was a registered sex offender known in the local area for his ‘dangerous’ behaviour with women, approaching them and harassing them for their numbers and getting ‘aggressive’ when turned down. 

The perpetrator, Michael Murray, 29, was eventually arrested and despite denying the crimes in his police interview, pled guilty to common assault and rape and was jailed for nine years.

‘Stranger rapes are actually a very small proportion of the rapes that are reported to us’, explained Chief Constable Sarah Crew. 

‘In some ways they’re the most straightforward for us to investigate because there’s never an issue of consent to be violently dragged off the street and so intimately assaulted by a stranger.’ 

Michael Murray, 29, was eventually arrested and despite denying the crimes in his police interview, pled guilty to common assault and rape and was jailed for nine years after forcing himself on a 16-year-old on a bus

One case in which the perpetrator was a trusted family member is featured in the show, when a young woman reports to the police that her mother’s boyfriend has raped her. 

In harrowing footage, the 19-year-old’s distressed mother explained to the police: ‘It’s the first time she’s been to his house, his flat. I think he mistook her for me because we’d all had a drink.’ 

Sobbing, the young woman continued: ‘No, and I kept saying no but he kept having sex with me. But I do think he thought I was mum but I did say no, I know I did.’ 

She alleged that at her mother’s boyfriend’s flat she had put on her pyjamas and was ready to go to sleep upstairs when the suspect entered the room and began touching her and, despite pushing him away, pulling down her trousers and raping her. 

The man denied any sexual contact occurred, claiming he had entered the spare bedroom realised he was in the wrong room and left. 

However forensics carried out by detective Mike Banks found a high quantity of the victim’s DNA on his penis and on the inside of his boxer shorts. 

Reflecting on the case, the anonymous victim said: ‘Him and mum had been together for about two years. I think I met him for the first time a year before that he spent Boxing Day with us. 

‘I didn’t see him as family, I’d only known him for a year I didn’t think badly or negatively of him. He was someone I thought made Mum happy. 

‘You’re in a place you assume is safe, you’re not on alert, when you’re walking alone in the dark you’re aware, whereas if it’s someone you know. I shouldn’t have to make sure I’m safe sleeping in a bed, in the night.’ 

The man was charged with the crime, but took his own life before standing trial. 

The trial was discontinued and no verdict could be made.  

‘Such a shock to everyone,’ said the victim. ‘I cried. Almost out of shock crying, like what? I don’t think I knew how I was feeling, and then my mind went straight to Mum, because that specific news was likely to hurt her more. 

‘Comprehending that it’s done, without a trial. Really trying to understand it’s not happening at all, not just not happening now, it’s not ever going to happen was really difficult to understand. 

‘It kind of makes me really angry, he did do it and he essentially died innocent because he didn’t turn up to court, no-one got the chance to see all the evidence and say if he was guilty or not. That’s really infuriating, it’s like he got away with it.’ 

The victim was never able to see her alleged perpetrator in court 

Rape: Who’s On Trial? will air on Channel 4, Monday 9pm  

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