THE boss of a project that helps rape victims in Huddersfield says the criminal justice system is too geared towards targets.
Barbara Siedlecki, manager of the West Yorkshire-wide Surviving Trauma After Rape (STAR) project, was reacting to a report on how rape complaints are dealt with.
The Stern Review argues for a new approach that gives greater priority to the care and support of victims.
Its author, crossbench peer Baroness Stern, said debate had been too focused on conviction rates.
Miss Siedlecki said: “That’s a fair point. When you are talking about big organisations, we are all led by targets and it all becomes about number crunching.
“No-one is looking at the amount of support victims need to get through the criminal justice system. We are all having to look at numbers to prove our worth.”
The Stern Review follows the conviction of two high-profile sex attackers in London.
Taxi driver John Worboys drugged and raped his victims and Kirk Reid is thought to have sexually assaulted dozens of women in south London.
During her five-month study, Lady Stern talked to more than 200 people, including rape victims and police officers.
Her report said attitudes and practices had improved but implementation had been patchy.
Miss Siedlecki said the quality of services varied across different areas.
“If you look at the country as a whole, some areas provide more support than others,” she said.
“In West Yorkshire, quite a lot of support is offered by STAR, the police and other organisations.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a fantastic service, but we do our best.
“Whoever you talk to, they will say they are under-resourced.”
STAR is funded by West Yorkshire Police and the five primary care trusts in West Yorkshire.
Anyone who contacts the project is assigned one of its 65 volunteers, who will meet them and discuss their immediate needs.
After six weeks, they are offered counselling.
Those who want to report the matter to police are given support and advice.
Victims who don’t want to tell the police are given the option of a forensic medical examination that could provide evidence in case they later change their minds.
Miss Siedlecki said: “Like many places, we are very concerned about the number who are making police reports.
“About 45% of victims who come to us don’t want to make an official complaint, a lot of the time out of fear.
“Our job is to give them the options to make an informed decision.”
STAR’s 24-hour helpline can be called on 08444 068680.