Lessons from London: a contemporary examination of the factors affecting attrition among rape complaints

Anthony Murphy*, Ben Hine, Julia A. Yesberg, Daniela Wunsch, Barry Charleton

*Corresponding author for this work

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Severe levels of attrition in rape cases within the criminal justice system are widely recognised. Previous reviews (e.g. Hohl & Stanko, 2015. Complaints of rape and the criminal justice system: Fresh evidence on the attrition problem in England and Wales. European Journal of Criminology, 12(3), 324–341) have provided information on the general profile of cases, their outcomes, and the relationship between the two, in attempts to understand these patterns. However, recent changes to the landscape of rape investigation (e.g. the impact of technology) justify a more contemporary assessment. The present study coded 446 cases of rape reported in London in April 2016, on a variety of victim, suspect, offence, and procedural characteristics, as well as case outcomes. We conducted descriptive analyses of case profiles and inferential examinations of the relationship between case characteristics and outcomes. Findings suggest the profile of victims, suspects, and the context of offences has remained mostly similar, with some noticeable changes (e.g. a larger array of victim vulnerabilities). Moreover, several existing, exacerbated, as well as novel procedural challenges present (e.g. delay due to workload, third party materials). Additionally, many rape-myth related case factors no longer predict case outcomes and officers instead may now engage in greater ‘downstream’ orientation, and anticipation of case uptake, when evaluating cases. Recommendations for policy and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-114
Number of pages33
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number1
Early online date3 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • attrition
  • investigation
  • policing
  • Rape
  • rape myth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • General Psychology
  • Law


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