False allegations of domestic violence are rare, according to new study

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has conducted the first ever study into false allegations of domestic violence and rape, concluding that they are rare.

The report, which has been published by the Director of Public Prosecutions, suggests that false allegations are even rarer than was previously thought. In only a small number of cases examined was there enough evidence to indicate that accusations were false.

In the 17 month period that the study examined there were 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence, and only six prosecutions for making false allegations.

The study is part of a wider drive by the CPS to improve its handling of abuse cases against women and girls.

Keir Starmer QC said of the findings:

“This is a trailblazing report. It’s the first time we have clear evidence on the prosecution of this important issue. This report shows that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are very rare, but that they are very serious where they do exist.  My view is that this shows that the CPS guidance for prosecutors on this issue is broadly in the right place. This report will therefore help us to ensure that we are able to make consistent and sound decisions in these difficult cases.”

He added:

“Victims of rape and domestic violence must not be deterred from reporting the abuse they have suffered. In recent years we have worked hard to dispel the damaging myths and stereotypes that are associated with these cases. One such misplaced belief is that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are rife. This report presents a more accurate picture.”

Marilyn Stowe

The senior partner at Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers with clients throughout the country, in Europe, the Far East and the USA.

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13 comments

Leon - March 14, 2013 at 3:25pm

this is painful reading, have they taken into account the dropped cases?
husband and wife divorce
wife accuses him of rape (her word against his)
husband is put on bail
months after, the CPS drops the case
allegations are then used at the county court when it comes to contact with the children..
no prosecution here, but a lethal weapon in her hands, having and still going through it, I find this article revolting.

LK - March 14, 2013 at 5:04pm

In the USA, the number 1 cause of a child abuse accusation against a father is from a mother who is trying to get the upper hand in a custody battle. Usually during a divorce.

stuart - March 14, 2013 at 9:25pm

Leon
I entirely agree. This is a complete nonsense and an obvious misinterpretation of reality.
Many, many false allegations are being made – but fail to reach the CPS. That does not mean they are not made to solicitors, the family courts and the police – but get lost in the sea of acrimony. Nor does it mean that these allegations are any less serious – it is just that they are less believable.
There are lies, damned lies and statistics and this finding is all three.

u6c00 - March 14, 2013 at 9:56pm

With respect, the post title is not supported by the post.

The study looks at criminal prosecutions for making false allegations. It doesn’t take into account cases where there is insufficient evidence and it doesn’t take into account not guilty verdicts where cases have gone to trial.

Finally it doesn’t take into account false allegations in the civil courts in order to obtain occupation orders, non molestation orders or to limit contact with children.

“The study is part of a wider drive by the CPS to improve its handling of abuse cases against women and girls.”

Thank you, there you have identified the inherent bias for me so I don’t really need to say any more!

quantumvaleat - March 15, 2013 at 12:08pm

I agree with the previous comments. It’s important to note that the report was between January 2011 and May
2012 – prior to the new (diluted) definition of domestic violence being announced by the Home Office in September 2012 (due to implemented this month), as a result of this dilution of the definition, I would expect to see many more false allegations.

u6c00 - March 15, 2013 at 8:18pm

It would appear that the only conclusion which could logically be drawn from the (admittedly limited) information in this post would be:

“Prosecutions for making false allegations of domestic violence are extremely rare.”

Though when you phrase it like that it sort of loses its “anti-violence against girls and women” impact.

Sola Noah - March 16, 2013 at 1:15pm

I am of the view that you’ve misrepresented the report Marilyn. I wouldn’t want to say this proves your bias but this clearly shows your likely line of argument when representing your clients in court.

For someone that’s always on tv (ITV) i think you should know better.

Marilyn Stowe - March 16, 2013 at 1:43pm

Dear Sola
I am unable to wrote every post on the blog because it is too big now. The author of this particular post is our web editor (and he is a man!) He reported the comments of the DPP Keir Starmer. If you don’t agree with the interpretation of the report by all means say so. This blog is intended to encourage debate and this is a very important topic.
Best wishes
Marilyn

Nick - March 17, 2013 at 12:47pm

The report makes it very clear from the outset (page 2) that it is part of the VAWG (violence against women and girls) agenda and it therefore needs to reach a conclusion in line with that agenda.

It does not prove that false allegations of domestic violence and rape are rare – it cannot prove that. All it shows is that prosecutions for false allegations are rare.

All the successful prosecutions in the report were referred to the CPS by the police (page 10) – they would not, therefore, have been cases from the family courts or other contexts where false allegations are routinely made (such as education).

Anyone who has had false allegations made against them in the family courts will know that they are very effective at preventing contact or introducing delay, they are encouraged by lawyers and CAFCASS officers (they will deny this) and they can be made with impunity. In such an environment I doubt it would even occur to the recipient of false allegations to launch a prosecution; they might not be aware it is possible.

My own experience of the family courts involved a torrent of increasingly serious allegations of domestic violence and child abuse. The purpose of these was to prevent contact, delay proceedings, threaten legal aid funding, break down my financial and emotional resources and undermine my legal advisors’ belief in me.

Over the last ten years I have been involved with a number of fathers’ and parents’ support organisations and have heard probably thousands of stories, the majority of which involved very similar experiences. I am not aware of any parents diverging from the usual run of Section 8 applications to launch private prosecutions, and the attitude of the courts seems invariably to have been that these allegations are par for the course and a normal part of the family court game.

Following this report it is likely that there will be even fewer actions, particularly if its recommendations are taken up, for example that where the maker of a demonstrably false allegation has been a genuine victim in the past, they should not be prosecuted. The suggestion is that as long as they have been the victim of some offence at some time in the past, the allegation is justified and reasonable even if the offence and the perpetrator are wrongly identified.

Catherine Comins wrote in a Time magazine article that false allegations of rape were actually beneficial to men, “They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”

Starless and Bible Black - March 17, 2013 at 7:22pm

I agree that false rape accusations are rare but false accusations of domestic abuse are not entirely uncommon, especially during divorce and child custody hearings.

stuart - March 18, 2013 at 8:50pm

Nick

What point are you actually making? I am a little lost.

False accusations of rape are – in what ever context – a vile and totally unacceptable misuse of power. By making a false accusation of rape ( and for that matter domestic violence) it demeans and devalues the very real and serious nature of a despicable and unforgivable crime. We seem to be agreed that this “study” is totally flawed and misrepresents what it purports to prove. We seem to be agreed that false accusations are in fact common, and used as a weapon by some angry and disturbed women to gain an upper hand in complex custody cases. We seem to be agreed that women using this tactic should themselves be prosecuted for perjury or wasting police time. But why should we – as men – be grateful to some nonsensical feminist agenda that we should all be grateful for this sort of crime?
It is rubbish and needs to be shouted from the roof tops.

Paul - March 19, 2013 at 9:00am

An acknowledged and well-known child psychiatrist, with several hundred expert court reports to his name, stated explicitly in his opinion to court in my case that the incidence of false allegations in contested family cases was ‘unusually high’ and went on to damn a s.47 investigation involving police, social services and NHS practitioners which had implied child abuse on my part. This bloke deals with false allegations of domestic violence or child abuse against fathers as his bread and butter, not as the CPS do where cases rarely come to light because of a shoulder-shrugging attitude on the part of state agencies generally towards them. Everyone knows it goes on but nobody much cares. I lost contact with my son for nearly a year because of what happened and the hurt and anger runs deep.

Starmer trivialises false allegations in seeing the matter as a secondary issue within his overall theme of dealing with violence against woman. I for one hope he never gets his knighthood.

Harald - September 13, 2013 at 9:04am

Marilyn,

Is there a process or remedy for parents (I suspect this will be for the majority, fathers) where allegations are found to be false merely to prevent or delay contact exactly as Nick above says? Surely the victim has the right to pursue criminal charges or a civil claim particularly where the rationale has been to diminish resources and cause distress not only to the other parent but also the child?

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