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Thursday, 27 September 2018

CPS reveal record rape conviction rate amid criticism of 'dramatic decrease' in prosecutions

Written by Ryan Hooper

Three in four cases of violence against women and girls taken on by prosecutors end in conviction, the highest rate since comparable records began, new figures for England and Wales show.

The 76.1% figure for 2017/18 represents the highest conviction rate since data was compiled by the Crown Prosecution Service in 2006/07, and indicates an upwards trend of annual improvements in that rate since 2014/15 (73.5%).

Elsewhere, data in the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) report shows rape victims are now as likely to see their attacker convicted after a trial (49.3%) than at any other time since 2012/13, when the rate was at 51.9%.

But while there were positives to be drawn from highest ever conviction rates for sexual offences excluding rape, meaning more than four in five victims (or 80.4% of cases) ended in a successful outcome for prosecutors, the data showed regional variations in the average length of time it takes to charge a rape suspect - from 38 days in the East Midlands, to 123 days in the east of England.

The figures also showed:

  • A 100% conviction rate for child killers in 2017/18
  • The highest domestic abuse conviction rate since comparable data began in 2009/10
  • A 23.1% drop in the number of rape cases taken on by the CPS in the 12 months to 2017/18
  • A rise in the conviction rate for human trafficking offences, up from 61.4% to 65.1% during the last 12 months
  • A fourth consecutive annual decrease in the volume of honour-based violence crimes resulting in a criminal charge

Alison Saunders (pictured), overseeing her final VAWG report before she stands down as director of public prosecutions later this year, said: "Crimes of violence against women and girls continue to make up a fifth of the CPS caseload.

"Our focus is on making sure the right person is prosecuted for the right offence, and bringing offenders to justice wherever possible.

"VAWG cases, in particular rape and serious sexual offences, are among the most complex we deal with.

"Over the past decade, the CPS and the police have undertaken extensive work to address the particular challenges involved.

"Our priority is to continue to work with the police, to bring strong cases and respond to challenges such as the substantial increase in digital evidence that is now a common feature of these cases."

But campaigners criticised the statistics relating to charging decisions as "shameful", particularly the drop-off in rape cases - down from 3,671 charges in 2016/17, to 2,822 charges the following year.

It represented the fourth consecutive year in which the charge rate dropped.

The data comes following a week of allegations about how the CPS handles cases, prompting a denial that it had changed its approach to rape prosecutions to weed out "weak cases" and improve its conviction rate.

Sarah Champion, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, said: "The CPS statistics released today are shameful and serve as a condemnation of the effectiveness of the Government's VAWG strategy.

"The Government talk a good game yet all week there's been a steady flow of bad news about the failures of multiple departments.

'It is an absolute scandal that there's been such a dramatic decrease in the number of prosecutions for rape cases.

"The statistics clearly demonstrate the cuts have taken their toll and the Government can no longer effectively prevent or prosecute violence against women and girls."

Campaigners EVAW (End Violence Against Women) said the low charging rate required an inquiry at a time when data from the Rape Monitoring Group showed an annual increase in the number of allegations to police.

EVAW co-director Sarah Green said: "This is a collapse in rape justice and we need to know why this has happened and what those in charge of the justice system are going to do about it.

"This agenda of chasing targets instead of justice cannot work for this very serious crime.

"We now need the Justice Secretary and the Attorney General to commission an independent review of exactly what changed in CPS policy and practice over the last 18 months and how we can improve outcomes for victims of rape."

'POSTCODE LOTTERY MEANS SOME RAPE VICTIMS WAIT MONTHS FOR CPS TO ACT'

Rape victims face an average wait of four months for prosecutors to charge a suspect in certain parts of England, compared with just 38 days elsewhere, new figures show.

Campaigners said the data, released as part of the Crown Prosecution Service's annual Violence Against Women and Girls report, exposed a "postcode lottery" where victims' route to justice was heavily influenced by where they live.

The data shows it takes the CPS an average of 38 days to charge someone in a rape case in the East Midlands during 2017-18 - although the clock does not start until prosecutors are first informed of the case, rather than the moment an allegation is made.

The figure for the East Midlands - the lowest in England and Wales for 2017-18 - is up from 30 days for the region the previous year, and 23 days the year before that.

But in Eastern England, the average number of days taken to charge a suspect has increased annually from 81 in 2015-16, to 108, and to 123 days in 2017-18.

The average time to charge in the North West of England stands at 115 days - down from 128 last year and 95 in 2016.

In Wales, the figure has increased from 53 days in 2015-16, to 67 the following year, and to 78 in 2017-18.

Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said "The postcode lottery those reporting rape are subjected to in terms of waiting times for a charge is also appalling and needs investigating. Those crucial early days can make a huge difference in terms of rape survivors' ability to see a legal process through."

The CPS said there were many reasons why the time it takes to charge a suspect with rape differs from other offences.

This includes involvement from the CPS at a much earlier stage in order to build a secure case against a defendant.

The back-and-forth nature of the case is partly down to the complex and resource-intensive nature of evidence gathering, including forensic material.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Daniel Leal Olivas / PA Wire.