Government figures in the United Kingdom show that the number of offenders cautioned for rape is increasing, as is the number of rape reports, but that convictions are becoming rarer. In 1994, only 19 people received cautions for rape, but in 2004 that number had climbed to 40, a significant number when considered alongside only 791 convictions that year, according to Reuters. A caution can be given by a senior police officer when there is an admission of guilt; the offender is put on the sex offender register, and the caution shows up on his criminal record.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claims that cautions are given only in rare circumstances, most frequently to juvenile offenders, in cases that date back several decades, or when a victim wants an admission of guilt but does not want to pursue a trial, reports BBC. However, women’s groups are outraged by the increasing number of cautions, and called for more transparency about when cautions were used. Nicola Harwin, chief executive of Women’s Aid, told the Times that “it is worrying that cautioning for rape is something that is not discussed, explored or explained. We need to be told the exact circumstances in which cautions are given.”
The news about cautioning comes just a few weeks after an announcement that the government would be exploring changes in the way rape cases are handled in order to raise the conviction rate. Reuters reports that currently, only one in 20 rape cases results in a conviction, as opposed to one in three thirty years ago. Amnesty International UK applauded the government’s effort to improve handling of rape cases, but cautioned that the government should support “an integrated strategy to end all types of violence against women in Britain Ð including, for instance, prevention through education and public-awareness schemes and better victim support.”