feminists@law, Vol 5, No 1 (2015)

Accessible Justice? Rape Victimisation and Psychosocial Disability

Louise Ellison, Vanessa Munro, Katrin Hohl and Paul Wallang

This is an audio recording of a paper delivered as part of the 'Sexual Offences and Offending' stream at the SLSA Annual Conference, University of Warwick, on 1 April 2015. The powerpoint presentation associated with the paper is provided in the accompanying PDF document.

In a context in which research evidence indicates high rates of alleged sexual victimization amongst adults with psychosocial disabilities (PSD), this paper sets out to explore some of the challenges that are posed to the criminal justice system by these types of complainants. We do so by drawing upon rape allegation data recently collected by the London Metropolitan Police Service over a two month period. Our analysis of this snapshot of Metropolitan Police rape reporting suggests that a significant number of rape complainants have recorded PSDs, and that these complainants are significantly more likely than those without recorded PSDs to experience additional, circumstantial vulnerabilities, including intellectual disability, alcohol and/or drug dependency, and repeat victimisation. Our findings also suggest that cases involving complainants with recorded PSDs are significantly more likely to suffer attrition – to ‘drop out’ of the criminal justice system – due to police or prosecutorial decision-making. In this paper we reflect upon possible explanations for this heightened attrition rate but also use our snapshot analysis as a stepping off point from which to highlight the need for more sustained critical research on the treatment of complainants, and the adequacy of police and prosecutor training and practice in this area.

Louise Ellison is a Professor of Law at the University of Leeds, UK. Email l.e.ellison@leeds.ac.uk.

Vanessa Munro is Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Nottingham, UK. Email vanessa.munro@nottingham.ac.uk.

Katrin Hohl is a Lecturer in Criminology at City University London, UK. Email katrin.hohl.1@city.ac.uk.

Paul Wallang is a Consultant Psychiatrist at St Andrew's Healthcare