LONDON, Nov 12 (Reuters) David Cameron called today for rape laws to be tightened to reverse a decline in the number of convictions.
The Conservative leader said too many men think they can ''get away with it'', pointing to figures showing that less than 6 per cent of reported rapes result in a conviction, down from nearly 33 per cent in 1977.
''When it comes to ending sexual violence against women, we still have so far, too far, to go in this country,'' he told the Conservative Women's Organisation conference in London.
He quoted statistics that one in 20 women have been the victim of rape but less than a quarter are ever reported.
''Taken together, this means just 15 in every 1,000 women who get raped in the UK see justice done,'' he said.
''We have a situation where ... rapists think they can get away with it, while victims fear not being believed and wonder what's the point of pursuing the criminal process.'' Figures which suggest that as many as half of young men think there are some circumstances when it may be acceptable to force a woman to have sex were an example of ''moral collapse'', he added.
''We need widespread cultural change, and addressing this moral failure represents a real challenge to British society: to families, schools, local communities and businesses,'' he said.
Conservative Justice Spokesman Nick Herbert will conduct a review of rape penalties to make sure they are proportionate to the crime.
Cameron said sentences given to convicted rapists have fallen over the past three years to an average of just under seven years.
The Tory leader also called for the issue of sexual consent to be taught as part of sex education classes at school.
He promised long-term funding for rape crisis centres under a future Conservative administration.
Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said Labour had introduced tougher sentencing and more support for victims.
''Rape is a terrible crime. We need to take action to tackle it and offer support to victims,'' he said in a statement. ''One of the key issues we face in bringing more rapists to court is ensuring that there is support for victims throughout the criminal justice process.
''We are funding important measures to support the victims of rape and encourage victims to come forward.'' REUTERS PJ HT0000