Having no foundation or basis in fact. Synonyms: baseless, groundless, unsubstantiated, unproven, unsupported without basis, without foundation.
Leading up to Valentine's Day, The Globe and Mail released a 20-month long investigative report that revealed in Canada police dismiss 1 out of every 5 sexual assault reports as "unfounded". This basically means that police believe the crime didn't happen.
Not a very romantic notion - but an excellent report and the most comprehensive review of sexual-assault rates ever conducted in Canada.
The Globe reported that when Canadian police officers complete an investigation, they use a closure code to show the outcome. "The code "unfounded" indicates that the officer does not believe a crime was attempted or committed. Once a case is coded as unfounded it virtually disappears from public record. The case is never reported to Stats Canada which has huge implications for police and victim services funding." (Unfounded: Will the Police Believe You?)
"The Globe's findings suggest that police in Canada are closing a disproportionate number of rape cases as unfounded, a phenomenon that distorts the country's crime statistics" (Unfounded: How police and politicians have responded to The Globe’s investigation so far. Feb. 11, 2017, The Globe and Mail)
The Globe sent out nearly 250 freedom of information requests to 178 police services to obtain confidential unfounded data from 1,119 police jurisdictions across the country. They received responses from 873 jurisdictions, representing 92 per cent of the Canadian population.
The unfounded sexual-assault rate in Canada from 2010 to 2014 is 19 per cent. That means 27,740 of 143,053 allegations have been screened out of the justice system. Experts say that these high stats are a symptom of a broken system.
You can even find out the unfounded rate where you live. Go to the link above and just scroll down until the field appears at the top of your screen. Enter your city, town or county name to get the stats of unfounded cases in your area.
The 5-year unfounded sexual assault rate for Durham Region is 24 per cent. That means 533 of 2,189 allegations were dismissed as never happening.
No wonder the majority of women affected by sexual-assault don't report. These stats are high compared to the national average of 19 per cent.
"Every year, an average of 5,500 people (across Canada) are reporting sexual violence to Canadian police, but their cases are dropping out of the system as unfounded long before a Crown prosecutor, judge or jury has a chance to weight in." (Unfounded: Why Police Dismiss 1 in 5 Sexual-Assault Claims As Baseless, Feb. 3, 2017)
What Experts Say Can Be Done Better:
Robin Dolittle, The Globe's lead reporter for this study spoke with educators, criminologists, trauma experts and lawyers who offered clear ideas about what should be done to address the issues raised by the Unfounded investigation:
- Statistics Canada should release unfounded statistics.
- Police forces should adopt better standardized protocols for how police should handle sex-assault cases.
- Police should be better taught how to interview sexual-assault survivors, such as interviewing them a few days after the incident, when their memories are clearer, instead of immediately after.
- There should be better and more consistent oversight of how police forces deal with sexual assault.
There are even stats showing an improved effect when female police officers are investigating the cases.
"Some advocates are urging Canada to adopt the so-called Philadelphia Model, a 17-year-old initiative in which women’s advocates do annual reviews of sexual-assault case files with high-ranking officers. Since adopting that model, the U.S. city has slashed its unfounded rate from 18 per cent to about 4 per cent." (Unfounded: How police and politicians have responded to The Globe’s investigation so far. Feb. 11, 2017, The Globe and Mail)
Another action that can be taken is to write your Police Services Board, requesting that they undertake a comprehensive review of all non-investigated sexual-assault claims in their jurisdiction.
Since the date of The Globe and Mail's report, several Police Boards have committed to reviewing unfounded cases for investigation.
"Within a week of the Unfounded investigation’s debut, more than 30 police forces representing more than 1,000 communities had announced investigations into sexual-assault cases that were deemed “unfounded.” More are likely to follow after the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police urged “all police services to review practices around sexual-assault investigations.” Let's hope that Durham Regional Police Service is one of those looking to review their practices. (Unfounded: How police and politicians have responded to The Globe's investigation so far. Feb. 11, 2017, The Globe and Mail)