A small women’s human rights charity today (10 March) launched a major CrowdJustice fundraising drive as it announced that in just seven days time (on 17 March) it will face the Crown Prosecution Service at the High Court, where senior judges will consider the admissibility of their case claiming the CPS has “raised the bar” on rape charging decisions and is discriminating against and harming women.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, supported by its lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice, has already raised around £30,000 since it began the case against the CPS last Summer. But it is asking people to ‘chip in’ again because the unusual way in which the case is to be heard next week leaves the charity at risk of being required to pay the CPS’ costs in full if the case is stopped at this stage.
Much of the money already pledge was given in £10 and £20 from sums from women leaving messages to EVAW including:
“I want change. Because I won’t get justice for what was done to me.”
“I think my case is about to be dropped. I’m not an innocent-enough victim. If they take my phone they’ll find my sexual history which has been wild and joyful but I know they’ll use it against me. I think they’ll use all their resources to suggest a woman like me can’t be raped. But I was raped.”
“I myself have been let down by our justice system and support other women who have also been grievously let down too. The way this crime is considered is out of date, unfair and completely unjust. Thank you for standing up for every victim.”
“Thank you for standing up for me, no one will ever pay for the abuse done to me, except me for the rest of my life.”
“This needs to be fought. Thank you for doing it for all of us.”
If the EVAW Coalition is refused permission to proceed further next week, this money could be swallowed up by the very institution women’s rights campaigners accuse of going backwards on rape prosecutions.
EVAW Coalition Director Sarah Green said:
“We have felt compelled to bring this case because it is very clear from Government data, and from what women on the frontline are experiencing, that the bar has been raised on charging in rape cases – leaving women denied justice and dangerous offenders getting away with it.
“Last year there were almost 60,000 reports of rape to the police but less than 1,800 men charged and less than 1,000 convictions. This amounts to the effective decriminalisation of rape and we must now have the court’s view on whether key management decisions, policy and practice at the CPS are violating women’s human rights to protection and justice.
“We have to take this case – it is a matter of the highest public interest – but we face really serious costs, which a small charity like ours cannot reasonably hold in the bank all the time. We are so grateful to the many people who already pledged and shared our messages, and we hope that many more will show support in the next few days as we get ready to go to court.”
Centre for Women’s Justice Director Harriet Wistrich said:
“The CPS are fighting this case aggressively. They deny they bare any responsibility for the fall in prosecutions, instead blaming the police and changes in disclosure since the Liam Allen case. At no stage have they shared the huge concerns underlying our challenge that more rapists are getting away with it and victims are being denied justice. Instead, they say that there is no basis for our challenge and that EVAW, a small women’s charity, should pay all their costs incurred so far.
We need to remember why women who report rape to the police take the decision to do so – it is often because they believe the alleged perpetrator will do it again and they feel a responsibility to hold him accountable. The process or reporting is traumatic, intrusive and disruptive to their lives. The system is failing them and other women.Cases we have compiled as supporting evidence in this case include a woman who was held prisoner and threatened with a knife; a woman who was told that she left too much time before reporting which would be viewed negatively in court; and a woman who was repeatedly raped by her abusive husband and had a recording of one of the incidents. We need to fight this case and we need help.”
The statistics for rape case outcomes are collapsing and women’s organisations who work with women and girls who have been assaulted are questioning what is going on in police and prosecution service decision making on their cases.
The EVAW Coalition strongly believes that a major change in policy and practice has occurred at the CPS, with senior leaders directing prosecution leads to “put a touch on the tiller” and effectively drop weaker cases. Such instruction is very likely to leave prosecutors in local areas with the incentive to second guess what a jury might think and decide not to charge for example in cases where the complainant may be ‘blamed’ for what happened due to prejudice and myths about rape. It is not the job of the prosecution service to second guess jury prejudices; the job is to build the strongest case possible, based on each cases ‘merits’ and with an examination of the giving and seeking of consent.
The EVAW Coalition, represented by their lawyers Centre for Women’s Justice, therefore launched a major human rights based judicial review challenge against the CPS last Summer arguing that this change in approach violates women’s rights to safety and justice.