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72 Police J. 151 (1999)
False Accusations of Rape in the News

handle is hein.journals/policejl72 and id is 155 raw text is: LINDA PIGGOTT
Teaching Fellow, Department of Applied Social Science,
Lancaster University
Professor of Social Research, Department of Applied Social
Science, Lancaster University
The Sexual Offences Act 1993 has, for the first time, allowed boys
under the age of 14 to be charged with rape and we have been interested
in media responses to such allegations (Soothill, 1997; Soothill,
Dennison and Piggott, 1998). In the media reporting of this
phenomenon - new in law but not a new activity - there were some
interesting continuities, some familiar tunes being played, and not much
difference in newspaper reports about this supposedly 'new' kind of
rape compared with the media reporting of other kinds of rape. In fact,
while there have been some changes in the media reporting of rape -
such as wider coverage of rape cases in popular newspapers, much more
sensationalism and so on - it can also be said that much of the media
reporting of rape has remained remarkably constant, despite the
concerted attempts of feminists to influence the debate.
Certainly, the problem of rape has many different aspects, but one
that perhaps causes more heated debate than any other is the likelihood
(or otherwise) of women making false accusations against men. Many
feminists would be reluctant to entertain the notion that women do
sometimes make false accusations. However, we are willing to
acknowledge both in theory and in practice that they sometimes do.
Indeed, over the last 20 years or so there have been quite regular, but not
frequent, reports of women who have been found guilty in court of
making false allegations of rape. Such reports are usually brief and short
on facts, and it is not clear whether they appeared in newspapers
because they were unusual and isolated cases, or whether they were
simply some examples of what in reality are quite regular occurrences.
Whatever the purpose, the effect of such reports seems clear in that they
provide continuing, quiet proof that women do make false accusations
of rape.
We have been looking at the press reports of as many of these cases
as we could find, of women who are brought before the court for
making false accusations of rape. We have ranged widely and these are
an unselected series. In looking at rape cases in the press, however, one
quickly recognizes that much more pervasive than these cases is the

The Police Journal

April 1999

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