Prevalence and harm of sexual violence
Attrition in the courts
2.33The resolution rate for sexual violence offences is higher than the resolution rate for all offences, but it is lower than that of other serious offences such as homicide, assault, abduction and harassment. Attrition – where a case does not reach a resolution but is withdrawn or stopped before that point – may occur for many reasons and can occur both during the trial process and before the trial begins. For these reasons, any statistics on attrition are not useful in providing an accurate picture of how many victims drop out of the criminal justice system and why.
2.34Reasons for attrition before the trial has begun may be due to ongoing investigations that have not yet been resolved. An offence is recorded as “resolved” when Police apprehend an alleged offender and decide how to deal with them, even if no charges are laid. Therefore, a high resolution rate (in comparison to other forms of criminal offending) does not necessarily equate to high rates of justice needs of victims having been met.
2.35A 2009 Ministry of Women’s Affairs report into attrition in sexual violence cases found that of reported incidents, 55 per cent of cases had an identifiable suspect. Despite this, only 31 per cent of cases were prosecuted, and only 13 per cent of reported incidents resulted in a conviction. This figure represents a 42 per cent conviction rate where prosecution occurred, consistent with District Courts’ figures from 2013 that showed 45 per cent of prosecutions for sexual violence against adults resulted in conviction. Prosecutions for sexual violence against women, however, had a lower conviction rate, at 41 per cent.
2.36In 2014/15 (up to 23 October 2015), 429 sex offence trials were heard in the District Courts (out of a total of 8,372 criminal trials) and 22 at the High Court (out of a total of 87 criminal trials). In 2014/15, an additional 1,175 cases including a sex offence charge were filed in District Courts.
2.37Of the total number of sex offence trials heard by District Courts in 2014/15, 231 resulted in a conviction for the sex offence charge and 134 resulted in an acquittal for the sex offence charge. Fifty-five cases resulted in some other outcome and nine are still awaiting a final outcome, such as a retrial following a mistrial or hung jury, or sentencing. Other outcomes include dismissals under section 147 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2011, diversion, stay of proceedings (both under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and the Mental Health (Compulsory Treatment and Assessment) Act 1992), withdrawals and “not proceeded with” outcomes (the latter of which is mostly used when Crown Law re-evaluates the case and changes the charges to be pursued at trial). We note the “not proved” (no finding of guilt) outcomes for sexual offences are higher than the average “not proved” outcomes for all offences.