Only 5% of Rape Cases Brought to Court

Posted on 10 December 2010

Only 5% of rape cases brought to court

Leven Woon Zheng Yang

A mere five percent - or 119 out of 2,426 rape cases reported to the police between January and August this year - resulted in prosecutions, revealed Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday.

In a written parliamentary reply to Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, Hishammuddin said that the highest number of cases were recorded in Selangor (456 cases) while the lowest number was recorded in Perlis (18).

Similarly, the prosecution rate for molest cases during the same period was also five percent, or 73 out of 1,441 cases.

The number of incest cases reported to the police during the same period stood at 289.

When contacted for comments, two women NGOs said that the low prosecution figure was not surprising because of a variety of reasons.

Penang-based Women's Centre for Change (WCC) executive director Loh Cheng Kooi said that said that the low prosecution rate is not exclusive to Malaysia and the numbers were similar throughout the world.

But more troubling is the low success rate of prosecution.

In Malaysia, Loh said that a WCC research on sexual assault cases tried in Penang between 2000 and 2004 showed that only four percent of those brought to court resulted in convictions.

“This means that if the accused pleads not guilty, they stand a 96 percent chance of being acquitted... In fact, 45 percent of cases that were brought to court were eventually thrown out halfway,” she said.

The research also showed nearly half the cases were dismissed because, among others, witnesses failed to turn up for trial (in 32 percent of cases) or that the prosecutors requested for an acquittal (28 percent), she said.

Authorities must buck up

Loh suggested that the authorities must come up with a better support system for sexual assault victims in order to improve the conviction rate so that it can act as a deterrent.

“It is clear that the way victims behave before and during the court cases can pose serious difficulties for both themselves and the prosecution.

“Family dynamics may result in the victim being pressured to give up the case. In cases where complainant is not the victim, the victim might be very reluctant or indeed a hostile witness,” she said.

She added that the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers must improve their evidence gathering procedures in order to make a convincing case.

“There is no point amending the sexual crime law if the low number of prosecutions and convictions continues to be the trend,” she said.

Women's Aid Organisation executive director Ivy Josiah opined that the authorities sometimes are unprofessional in handling sexual assault cases and at times act judgmental towards the victims.

“In some cases, the police tell the victim that they were foolish for consenting to invitations from people who turn out to be the assailants.

“This immediately cause the victims to feel that the authorities are not on their side,” she lamented.

Asked on sexual assault prevention, Josiah said that a high conviction rate will act as a good deterrent but education programmes were also necessary to teach men about the respect for women's rights.


Published on December 10, 2010 in Malaysiakini


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