On the incidence of false accusation of rape

Bangkok 2006

Bangkok 2006

On the incidence of false accusation of rape

Over the years I’ve had many a run-in with Ally Fogg, (about whom JimPress once said he was “in grave danger of becoming a MoveAnyMountain for misogynists”), about false accusation, and have posted this on more than one occasion:

House of Lords debates Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What assessment is being made of the incidence of suicide amongst men falsely accused of rape.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office; Labour)

My Lords, such cases are tragic but extremely rare. A recent analysis of reported rape cases indicated that approximately 3 per cent were false allegations, none of which went beyond the investigative stage. (my emphasis)

From the Home Office study:

Nine per cent of reported cases were designated false, with a high proportion of these involving 16- to 25-year-olds. However, closer analysis of this category applying Home Office counting rules reduces this to three per cent. Even the higher figure is considerably lower than the extent of false reporting estimated by police officers interviewed in this study.

Also from the Home Office study is a quote from a police office that is chilling:

“Well, honestly, its because most of them are not telling the truth … I think what happens to a lot of adults is they may have consensual sex with somebody, they get found out by their husband, partner, whoever, they then say Oh but I didn’t consent as a way of getting themselves out of that trouble … I mean I have dealt with hundreds and hundreds of rapes in the last few years, and I can honestly probably count on both hands the ones that I believe are truly genuine.(Comparison 1, Police Officer DC, M2, June 2002)”

No wonder victims are reluctant to report to him! I wonder if he is one of the offices that heard one or more of the complaints against taxi driver rapist John Warboys?


“The interviews with police officers and complainants responses show that despite the focus on victim care, a culture of suspicion remains within the police, even amongst some of those who are specialists in rape investigations. There is also a tendency to conflate false allegations with retractions and withdrawals, as if in all such cases no sexual assault occurred. This reproduces an investigative culture in which elements that might permit a designation of a false complaint are emphasised (later sections reveal how this also feeds into withdrawals and designation of ‘insufficient (evidence), at the expense of a careful investigation, in which the evidence collected is evaluated. These perceptions and orientations are not lost on complainants.”

Also this:

“International research contains salutary lessons about the ease with which cases are dismissed as ‘false. In her analysis of 164 police files in New Zealand, Jordan (2001b) found 3 cases that had been designated false, which subsequently turned out to be early reports of serial rapists. In one of these, a young woman, who was discounted since she was on the fringe of a gang and had minor criminal convictions, named a rapist, who subsequently went on to commit at least 45 stranger rapes over 13 years.”

IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal’s investigation into the failing of one of the Metropolitan Police Services’ Sapphire Units:

Until women who report rape are treated seriously and evidence is collected in a professional manner, men will continue to know that they will be able to get away with sexual crimes, far more than almost any other.

Here’s what Baroness Stern said in her report on page 13:

It was suggested to us that women often make false allegations of rape. Beliefs that many allegations are false are said to affect the way rape complaints are dealt with by police, prosecutors and juries. The research that is available on false allegations gives a wide range of figures for how many there are, although those we spoke to in the system felt that there were very few. Nevertheless, the effect on those who are falsely accused can be severe. The public holds very strong views about sex offenders, and those who have been under suspicion of rape are likely to suffer considerably from the allegation having been made, even when they have been cleared and the allegation has been established as false. The penalties for making false allegations and persisting with them through the legal process can be commensurately severe. The complainant making false allegations can be given a substantial prison sentence. Since the subject of false allegations comes up so often in discussions about rape, and the information about the prevalence of false allegations is so scanty, we have recommended that research be undertaken to establish their frequency.

And on page 40:

How common are false allegations? It is not possible to establish an exact figure and the research that is available gives a wide range of suggested percentages. Some research suggests that a figure of eight to ten per cent of reported rapes could well be false reports. However, those we spoke to in the system felt that there were very few. A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer told us, ‘They are extremely rare. I have been prosecuting for 20 years, and have prosecuted for a false allegation once.’ The judges we talked to said these cases occur very infrequently. An experienced police officer had come across two such cases in 15 years.


The number of false accusations of rape is miniscule compared to the number of actual rapes, the vast majority of which go unreported.


Most of this tiny number of false allegations are resolved without proceeding past a police interview. As Thunderchild points out in his earlier post.


Most of the men who are falsely accused of rape suffer no more than an interview with the police, after which the matter is resolved.

Speaking about the incidence of suicide among men falsely accused of rape, Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office; Labour) stated in 2006:

My Lords, such cases are tragic but extremely rare. A recent analysis of reported rape cases indicated that approximately 3 per cent were false allegations, none of which went beyond the investigative stage.

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