Only 35 per cent of recorded sexual crimes in New Zealand result in the attacker being identified, according to government statistics.
The figures for rape may be even lower, with only 9 per cent of rapes being reported and only 15 per cent of these resulting in a court case.
Statistics New Zealand figures for the 12 months to June 2007 show there were 3607 recorded sexual offences, with 1289 unresolved. Of these, 2347 were classed as sexual attacks - with 892 unresolved.
The director of Rape Prevention and Education, Dr Kim McGregor, said the situation was worse than the figures revealed.
"Only 9 per cent of rapes are reported to the police in this country,'' she said.
"When the rape complaints get to the police, 60 per cent to 80 per cent of them will be knocked off at the investigation stage. Only 15 per cent of them may make it through to court.''
The very nature of rape meant it was difficult to build a strong case.
"Because there are very rarely any witnesses, the issue comes up about consent and then it can be one person's word against another and it comes down to credibility.''
In July 2007, the Govern ment formed the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence with part of its remit being to look into how sexual crimes were handled in the criminal justice system.
McGregor said one option was to adopt an inquisitorial system, which tries to determine the facts of a case, rather than the current adversarial system, which prosecutes a particular person.
The police national co-ordinator for adult sexual assault and child abuse, Neil Holden, said this was an option.
"The taskforce are certainly looking into that and the police would entertain any system that meant justice could be served.''
The issue of consent in rape cases could become a problem.
"Consent is the issue which is very, very commonly used as part of the defence,'' he said.
"We are seeing time and time again people accept there has been some consensual activity, but it is the sexual element which is contested.''
He said alcohol was often an issue in cases, and when it came to a jury making a decision.
"People draw on their own life experiences. They take into the courtroom and it can overshadow the case before them.''
- The Press
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