Rape Convictions – by year and age of accused

 by Robert Whiston FRSA  July 30th 2010

NB. A separate site specialising in the many aspect of rape statistics and false allegations by, age, victim and offender numbers etc, can be accessed via the following URL : http://falseallegations.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/1/

The following information shown in Table A (see below), was made available by Maria Eagle MP (then Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Justice) in response to a parliamentary question in March 2008 (Hansard HC Deb, 13th March 2008, Col 634W). It relates to the number of prosecutions and convictions for rape for the years 2004 to 2006 – a period immediately following the introduction of new rape laws in Britain.

What Conclusions Can We Draw from the Data ?

Firstly, we can see that the numbers Proceeded against are out of all proportion to the numbers listed as successfully Found guilty.

Is this an indication that too many of those committing serious sex offences are getting off scot free, as some would have us believe ? Or is it that too many marginal cases are being brought to court (due to political duress) that are too shaky to stand up to the scrutiny of the law ?

Firstly, this is the question that divides two camps; on the one hand ministers and Whitehall policymakers who feel under pressure from zealous women’s lobby groups and on the other hand judges and juries who instinctively want to see proper evidence presented and fair play for the accused (the fact that no corroborating evidence is now reqired in rape cases is something judges have had to learn to live with).

Secondly, we can see that in all age categories there was an increase in 2005 over 2004, but in 2006 numbers fell back to their 2004 levels (or lower).

Thirdly, it would seem that very young people, i.e. aged between 10 to 17 years old, appear in sex offences trials as alleged perpetrators, e.g. 229 in 2006. This should shock us but it is a trend we should expect to grow. [1] We might express shock  but since the 1960s elements in society have positively approved of sexual experimentation and cast copulation in the role of a recreational activity. Using those paremters we have no right to be shocked to see young people become alleged victims and also perpetrators.

How many of these infant and juvenile cases were brutalised incidents and how many were merely childish ‘doctors and nurses’ games caught by worried parents we cannot know from these figures. Home Office staff chose to ignore the warning of this potential which some of us flagged up in 1999 when the HO was devising the legislation for what would be the Sex Offences Act 2003. They made it clear that they just wanted more guilty convictions from whatever source.

In Table A we see that although the numbers Proceeded Against declined slightly from 2004 to 2006, the numbers convicted doubled from 30 to 71 in the 10-17 age group. The second category, i.e. 18 year-olds also saw the same trend (up from 8 to 23).

However, it is in the 19 – 25 years old age group where the number of rapes seems to mushroom.

Each of the three subsequent 10 year interval age groups has approximately the same number of rape trials (that is, Proceeded against) for the same period (i.e. 2004 – 2006). Only in the older age groups, i.e. ‘46-55’, the ‘56-65’ and the ‘66 and over’ category) do the number of proceeding against begin to fall.

Profile: Rape  versus  Murder

The minister’s reply using 3 years is not very illuminating, however if we incorporate data from “Police Research Series – Paper 144”, circa 2002, we can detect if Table A is an aberration or part of a continuum.

One common perception is that rape is as horrendous as murder, so Paper 144 which looks at only murder and rape is useful for comparing the two crimes and identifying differences and the re-fending in both categories.

Fig 1 (below) shows murders perpetrated by age of offenders at the time of the offence using a sample of 569 murder offenders.

Fig 2 shows the age distribution of those convicted of rape. The initials “SSA” seen in Fig 2 stand for Serious Sexual Assault.

It is interesting to note the dissimilar overall age distribution of those committing murder versus rape. [2]

The mean age for a murderer is 27.6 years with a ‘model age’ of 21. The mean age for first time offenders was 19.8years old.

The mean age for those convicted of an SSA, including rape is 29.1 years and the model age is 29. The mean age is 21.3 for those without prior convictions (where prior conviction related to any type of offence, e.g. car theft, drugs, GBH, assault, petty theft, robbery fraud etc).

Rape trials start at a much earlier age than murder, at 13 years old (and possibly by 10 following a very recent trial). [3] The most easily recalled exception is the heart-rending murder of 2 year old James Bulger by two 10-year-old boys in 1993.

Fig 2 shows the peak age for a rape offender is not 21, as in the case of homicide, but aged 29 with a secondary peak at age 24.

The frequency of the crime of murder drops after the age of 21, but the number of rape offences drops only after the age of around 30 or 31.

Both deliberate homicide and rape taper off after the age of 30, with murders more noticeably tapering off after the age of 24.

In Fig 3 (below), the age distribution of Table A, shown above, is depicted as a bar chart for comparison with Fig 2. In common with Fig 2 the numbers represent proceeded against but, of course, this does not imply guilt (as Fig 2 does drawn as it is from convictions). Fig 3 peaks in the 24 to 35 age range. What this implies is that the most vulnerable age for being accused and or arrested for a serious sexual crime is in one’s twenties and thirties.

The figures given by the minister in Table A are unfortunately somewhat clumsy and do not allow for deep analysis.


However, it is the next graphic displayed here as Fig 4, that should rivet the reader’s attention. It depicts, from a sample of 1,057 serious sex offenders, that well over 350 of them had no prior conviction. The implication of this will be shown in a moment.

We hear much about the re-offending rate but the raw data here is telling us that this looks to be unlikely given that the next highest number of offenders, i.e. with one previous conviction, is under 150. Repeat offenders at the level of 4 convictions or more quickly taper off. This apparent average of 4 is also founding US rape data. The multiple or serial rapists is very much an exception.

The graphic would tend to indicate that only by adding together all the repeat sex offenders from 1 to 42 convictions can the total equal or overwhelm the total for no previous offences. This is pertinent to that element that forever seeks ever more punitive sentencing for rapists and sex offenders who claim that over 50% of them re-offend.

The practical implications for sentencing are apparently bizarre if the table published in “Police Research Series – Paper 144”, is an accurate guide (see Fig 5). It seems to imply that someone convicted of a serious sexual offence – but with no previous conviction whatsoever – can expect more or less the same length of sentence as someone who has offended and raped before. Someone with no previous convictions can expect a 456 day sentence whilst someone with a previous conviction (of any description ?) can expect a 547 day sentence. [4]

Only when the number of conviction is 5 or more does the sentence term climb steeply.

Fig 5

The mean age for a murderer is 27.6 years with a ‘model age’ of 21. The mean age for first time offenders was 19.8 years old.

This cannot be seen as an incentive for the one party who for the first time in his life accidentally got into a jam, and nor is it a disincentive or deterrent for the re-offender or the habitual criminal rapist.


The likelihood of ending up in jail is a concern for young people. Given their age, those youths aged 10 – 17 who faired worse compared to other age groups. There was a doubling of convictions from 30 to 71 pa and the numbers ‘Proceeded against’ increased to a peak of 305 (see Fig 6).

Fig 6.

Today, young people aged 18 or over, are technically adults but how much more mature are they than 17 year olds ? The number of ‘Proceeded against’ has not significantly increased between 2004 and 2006 but the number of those ‘Found guilty’ has, again, more than doubled, from 8 to 23.

By isolating the 18 years olds, the trend of sexual offending among teenagers is veiled. However, by combining the 10-17 and the 18 year old categories we can begin to redress some of the balance lost by having age groups spanning unequal age ranges.

The average of the two age groups over the 3 years is 362 ‘Proceeded against’ and the average of the two age groups over the same period ‘Found guilty’ being 74 (see Fig 6). Overall, the numbers convicted doubled from around 38 in 2004 to a high of 94 in 2006 (see Fig 6).

Incidence Risk by Age

The biggest offending categories were the 19 – 25 groups; the 26 – 35 age range; and the 36- 45 grouping. In all, an age spread of 20 – 45. On an annualised basis, from 2004 to 2006, over 500 cases involved these age groups (totalling approx 1,500 pa).

The drop-off in the following years i.e. (46 – 55) is therefore puzzling What does not happens or ceases to be a factor at age 46 but does influences events  age 36 (or 44, for that matter) ?

Conviction rates for these age groupings failed to show the same level of increase and the numbers ‘found guilty’ per annum compared with the two under-20 age groups.

Generally speaking, all 3 categories (i.e. 19 – 25, the 26 – 35 and 36- 45) remained fairly stable at 142 – 188. The latter representing 39% of those tried being found guilty (compare with 23% for 18 year olds).

Whereas, in 2004 the older the accuser was, the more likely he was to be convicted, by 2006 this had changed and the more elderly stood as much of a chance of conviction as the younger age groupings (a fall from 54% to 27%).

Though the age grouping provided by Gov’t are a little too crude for detailed analysis and a little too broad to be of any material benefit combing the two age groups 56 – 65 and 66+ throw up aspects that are of interest (see Fig 7). The numbers ‘Proceeded against’ in the 56 -65 age category are far higher than in the 66+ age bracket. This would perhaps indicate that fewer offences took place in the latter group or that the CPS decided to prosecute less often.

Merging the two groups shows a somewhat static sub-total for each year, e.g. 196. The number found guilty hardly alters and the percentage concludes at a lower level than in 2004.

Fig 7 

Innocence and IQ

The question of some rapists’ IQ levels emerges in studies both on this side of the Atlantic and on the American side. There is some evidence to suggest that rapes are committed by those individuals who have a lower than normal IQ and / or who have poor self-worth and self-esteem conditions. This can apply at every at level but implicit in some eccentric offending behavior studies is the age of perpetrator compared to age of victim.

For instance, a 9 year old sexually assaulting a person of his own age or twice his age, or a 17 year old sexually assaulting a woman aged 80 (see Postscript).

Conversely, oddities occur when the perpetrator is at the other end of the age continuum. For instance, a 79 year old sexually assaulting a person of his own age or half his age.

At the other extreme – and perhaps in a separate category – is the compulsive offender of adult age who targets pubescent and prepubescent children – boys and girls.

What drives one paedophile to find prepubescent girls attractive and what drives another paedophile to find prepubescent boys attractive, is a question the public has not woken up to as yet.

The reciprocating factor affecting those that make false allegations could be mental instability, this is known to be a causal factor in too many cases.

Are There Any Inconsistencies ?
In an attempt to tease out any further underlying variances within Table A the pictorial analysis derived from the data is shown at Graph 1.

Graph 1.

If ‘frequency’ is the number of times an event, value, or characteristic occurs in a given period we can see that, at between 600 and 700 (for 2004 – 06), the age group 26-35 are the most numerous (see Graph 1).

At the base of the chart is the 18 year old group (at 100 pa), who are the least prevalent and in terms of variation the least mobile

The line that should cause most concern is the one for 10 -17 year olds. This ranges from approx. 250 pa to 300 to 230 (for 2006).


The age grouping listed in Table A are not uniform – some are of 10 years while others are 1 year and 7 years. In order to bring a degree of conformity the 10 – 17 data have been combine with the 18 year old ata to create the ‘Teenage’ trend line. This can be seen in firstly in Fig 1 ranging from (approx.) 350 to 400 to 330 (and secondly in Graph 2).

The effect is to create a rank order with the ‘Teenage’ trend line (10 -18) becoming the second lowest with only the 46 – 55 age group being lower. The same data is portrayed in a different manner in Graph 2 (below).

The year 2004 is depicted in blue with the frequencies mapped by age, e.g. 10 -17 age group is shown at just over 200.  The year 2005 is then added (the maroon area) and the disparities between the age groups alter the profile. Finally 2006 is added.

The middle years, i.e. 25 – 35, are the ages when most accusers stand trial.

Graph 2.

On the right of the graph can be seen the effect of combining the totals to produce the Teenage years of 10 – 18. These are significantly higher that the adjacent 46 -55 age group and do not suffer the same false fall seen in the 18 year old bracket seen on the left of the graph. There is nothing in Graphs 1 and 2 that is inconsistenct with the patterns displayed in, say, Fig 3 or Table A, above.

Non-Custodial Sentences

Rape usually results in a custodial sentence if found guilty or in an acquittal; it is rather binary in that regard. So it is interesting to find the minister revealing data of the very rare occasions when a guilty verdict results in a non-custodial sentence being handed down.

One has to speculate whether this results in a re-offence, and if not (or very infrequently), why should it should not be piloted in selected areas for first time offenders to gauge the results ? What, one wonders, would be the effects of this information if applied to Fig 4 or, indeed, Fig 5 and 6 (above) ?

For those curious to what to know what are the actual numbers convicted of rape but not given a custodial sentence (a rarity in Britain), Table B (below) gives the numbers from 1992 to 2005.

This table represents actual number of person not sentenced to a term in jail – unlike Table A (above), which give the guilty totals and those sentenced in percentages.

Regrettably, details of why these offenders did not receive a custodial sentence are not disclosed.

Is it reasonable to conclude that in 2006 of the 754 convicted of rape and given a custodial sentence an additional 44 offenders were not  ? Or does the total of 754 include the 44 ? This is rather typical of Home Office’s inability to provide clear, unambiguous and comprehensive data (see Straight Statistics “The Home Office – a serial offender against sciencehttp://www.straightstatistics.org/article/home-office-%E2%80%93-serial-offender-against-science  ).[1]



Putting children aged 10 on trial for the adult crime of rape ?

This was a most extraordinary case. Two boys, aged 10 and 11, were put on trial for rape, in a public court and at the Old Bailey. The boys’ barristers asked the judge to throw out the case after the girl admitted she had not been truthful about some of her evidence.

When she was cross-examined earlier in the trial, the eight-year-old told the court she had lied to her mother about what had happened because she had been “naughty” and was worried she would not get any sweets.

Nevertheless, Mr Justice Saunders refused the pleas from the boys’ barristers and the trial had continued. Was the pressure to get more rape cases to trial and most rape trials to conviction reaching even Old Bailey judges ? (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8692223.stm).

Questions that have to be answered:

  1. Is the Old Bailey the best place for a children’s trial ?
  2. Should a 10 year old child have to stand trial (Mens rea) ?
  3. Should a rape trial continue when the victim admits perjury ?


[1] On 24th May 2010, two 10 years old boys were found guilty at the Old Bailey of  ‘attempted rape’, sentenced and ordered to register as ‘sex offenders.’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8692223.stm

[2] “Murder and Serious Sexual Assault: What criminal histories can reveal about future serious offending” [Sept 2002] http://library.npia.police.uk/docs/hopolicers/prs144.pdf

[3] Putting children on trial for an adult crime , 24 May 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8692823.stm

[4] This is one of the drawbacks of Paper 144, it does not differentiate sufficiently between previous sexual offence convictions and previous conviction for any crime, say petty theft.


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