False allegations of rape and domestic violence are perhaps more rare than previously thought, according to the first ever study on the issue by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The report (pdf), which examines a 17-month period, shows that in only a very small number of cases was it considered that there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to prosecute a person suspected of making a false allegation of rape or domestic violence.
During the period covered, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape but only 35 for making false allegations of rape. There were 111,891 prosecutions for domestic violence, but only six for making false allegations of domestic violence. There were a further three people charged with making false allegations of both rape and domestic violence.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said: "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."
The report also reveals the context in which people make false allegations. Around half of the cases involved people aged 21 and under, and some involved people with mental health difficulties.
Mr Starmer added: "From the cases we have analysed, the indication is that it is therefore extremely rare that a suspect deliberately makes a false allegation of rape or domestic violence purely out of malice. It is within this context that the issue should be viewed, so that myths and stereotypes around these cases are not able to take hold."
Lawyers are concerned that false allegations may increase after legal aid funding in family cases is cut next month. Under the new rules, alleged victims of domestic violence will be entitled to public funds, whereas the alleged perpetrator will not be so entitled. Lawyers argue that there is a real risk of a surge in the number of allegations, and possibly cross-allegations, of domestic violence in order to be able to qualify for public funds.