ONLY three per cent of rapes reported in Barnet over a two-year period have resulted in a conviction, according to figures from the CPS and Metropolitan Police.
Between April 2005 and March 2007, 137 rapes were reported in the borough, but only four rapists were convicted.
For the year ending in March 2007, the conviction rate, at just under six per cent, is similar to the national average. But in the previous year, not one of 70 reported rapes ended in a
Dee, a counsellor at Herts Area Rape Crisis, which helps victims from Barnet, said: "From where I stand, the numbers make rape a non-crime.
"There's a freedom to rape now and that's absolutlely shocking.
"It's a total slap in the face. It really doesn't surprise me that so many women don't have the strength to report it when they're simply not believed." Most reported cases are discontinued during
the police investigation stage.
Of the 137 reported offences, only 35 suspects were charged. Of those, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped 24, taking 11 cases to court.
Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre, in Croydon, described the impact of failed investigations on victims as 'absolutely devastating'.
She said: "Rape itself is an abuse, and if the case doesn't make it to court, it's a further abuse by the system. Victims feel they are at fault and haven't been believed.
"It says to the perpetrator, if they're clever about it, they won't get charged. It's a very low-risk crime and it tells women there's no point reporting rape because the chances of a case even
getting to court, in Barnet are only eight per cent."
The Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University has been at the forefront of research into attrition in reported rape - the process by which cases are lost through the
In 2005, the unit published a Home Office commissioned report on the problem entitled A Gap or a Chasm? One of the problems highlighted was that if victims are treated with scepticism when
reporting to police, it makes them reluctant to pursue the case.
Dr Miranda Horath, a research academic at the unit, said: "The report shows clearly that the majority of cases drop out at the reporting stage.
"If it does get to court, a lot of the time it comes down to 'he said, she said'. And juries have proved to be very reluctant to label anyone a rapist."
She believes Operation Sapphire, the Met's specialist sex offences operation, is effective in supporting women from this early stage but criticised the lack of specialist training throughout the
policeforce. "There is a need to make the process as supportive and straight forward for women when they report an offence," she added.
A Barnet police spokesman said: "Barnet police will continue to use all our resources to gather all the evidence and arrest those that commit these deplorable crimes.
"It is most important that we continue to provide the support needed by victims of these incidents."