Rape Prosecutions: Women’s groups “appalled” at further fall in numbers, and head to Court again against CPS

Thursday 30th July 2020

Rape Prosecutions: Women’s groups “appalled” at further fall in numbers, and head to Court again against CPS

Rape Prosecutions: Women’s groups “appalled” at further fall in numbers, and head to Court again against CPS

30 July 2020
 
New CPS rape figures released today show prosecutions have dropped by a third, with the lowest number of convictions on record, and contrary to CPS’ positive claims.
 
New figures released today (30 July) by the CPS show once again the appalling state of affairs for survivors seeking justice after they have been raped – who currently face a 1 in 70 chance of their case being charged (1).
 
They are further evidence of the damage done by an alleged change in rape charging policy and practice at the CPS - according to the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and their lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice, who are heading back to Court today to appeal a decision on a judicial review challenge of this change (2).
 
Contrary to CPS’ claims that the new numbers show progress, today’s numbers in fact continue to demonstrate the “effective decriminalisation of rape” in England and Wales, with the lowest conviction rate on record and a drop of 30% in completed prosecutions (3).
 
The statistics are published just two weeks after the Police and CPS were told they would have to stop using forms which demand over-intrusive examination of rape complainants’ mobile phones (4), following another CWJ case challenging this practice.
 
End Violence Against Women Director Sarah Green said:
 
“We have seen a vacuum of leadership and accountability within the CPS when it comes to rape, with no recognition of the harm done to the thousands of survivors being failed by the system.”
 
Just three weeks ago the CPS Director of Legal Services Mr Greg McGill gave evidence to the ongoing IICSA child sexual abuse public inquiry, stating on record:
 
“My experience is that we are more successful in prosecuting these cases than we have ever been….so I think the whole practice, procedure and the way these cases have been dealt with is in a different place now to what it was even five years ago, but is completely different to what it was 10, 15, 20 years ago.” (5)
 
Centre for Women’s Justice Director Harriet Wistrich said:
 
“In actual fact a survivor reporting rape five years ago had a much better chance of seeing justice done. How can it be that we have moved so far backwards in a crime that is so serious and does so much harm? Our legal challenge reveals that this reversal in progress started with Gregor McGill’s leadership message that ‘weaker cases’ should be taken out of the system to improve the conviction rate, without regard to the impact of this on the number of cases prosecuted and convictions obtained ”
 
It is EVAW’s position, as set out in their Judicial Review against the CPS for their failure to prosecute rape, that this disastrous collapse in cases proceeding is a result of a covert policy change, meaning that in 2016-17 prosecutors were encouraged not to charge so called “weaker cases” with the aim of improving their conviction rate.
 
Today’s statistics show a conviction rate of 68.5% - the highest on record. As is obvious to any observer – the fewer cases you take to trial, cherry picking ones you believe will be successful, the easier it is to improve the conviction ratio.
 
Similarly, any improvement in “charge rate” is a distraction from the reality, which is that the actual volume of suspects charged with rape this year (1,867) is half that of number in 2016/17 (3,671). It is staggering that a crime of such seriousness should decline in terms of suspects proceeded against, and huge questions about impunity are raised.
 
Court of Appeal hearing today:
 
In relation to their Judicial Review, EVAW, alongside their lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice, are in the Court of Appeal today at 12pm today in a ‘hybrid hearing’ with both advocacy in court and some participants joining online.


EVAW will appeal the decision made on 17 March 2020 which denied permission for a full judicial review hearing that would have fully considered the vast amounts of evidence compiled in the case. If granted, a further court hearing will consider whether this evidence shows the CPS acted unlawfully in changing their approach to the prosecution of rape.


The evidence in the case is so powerful that EVAW, in an unprecedented move, made all the information they compiled public in June (6) in order that individuals can see for themselves the weight behind the case.

The appeal today is based on four arguments - that the earlier court erred in deciding the Director of Public Prosecution’s version of events had to be relied upon; in deciding that the removal of legally binding guidance doesn’t constitute a change in policy; and in deciding that there was no duty to consult; nor breach of duty of transparency.


The public interest in the case, taking place the day CPS publish their most recent rape prosecution statistics, is very significant and the hearing at its heart is about whether there can be any accountability of the DPP if the Courts are required to take his version of events as fact, even when there is compelling evidence of human rights failing to the contrary.

And – domestic abuse figures falling too:
Of great concern also – today’s CPS figures include Domestic Abuse figures which now also appear to be following the same trajectory as rape – with drops of around 20% across police referrals, charges and convictions. Once again this suggests the disregard the CPS appears to have for women’s access to justice.
 
Need for political attention - Women’s groups have consistently called on the ongoing Government Rape Review (7) to be made high priority, with Ministerial leadership. Today’s statistics show just how urgently needed change is to ensure that survivors are able to access justice in the future.
 
Figures published by the Home Office in July 2020 show that 1in 70 rape cases are charged


EVAW has published a large amount of the evidence it compiled for the judicial review of the CPS online


Police reports in 15/16 20,083 and rape charges 3648. Figures found here: CPS VAWG report 17/18; read more 


On 15 July Police and CPS told to scrap digital extraction forms following CWJ challenge


Mr McGill’s evidence to IICSA Inquiry can be found at pages 139 – 141 of the IICSA transcript for 10 July 2020

Government Rape Review

Rape Crisis England & Wales responds to CPS 'five-year blueprint'

The End Violence Against Women Coalition is the UK’s largest coalition of organisations working to eradicate violence against women and girls; members include Fawcett Society, Forward, Imkaan, Jewish Women’s Aid, London Black Women’s Project, Rape Crisis England and Wales, Refuge, Respect, Southall Black Sisters, Standing Together, Women in Prison, Women’s Aid, WRC, The Women’s Institute and the TUC. The EVAW Coalition is a registered charity number 1161132. 

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) is a legal charity which aims to advance the human rights of women and girls in England and Wales by holding the state to account for failures in the prevention of violence against women and girls. CWJ is a registered charity 1169213.
 

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