Rape Justice Fail

The police and courts are not providing justice after sexual violence. Women's human rights are being denied. We're campaigning for a fair justice system and better support for survivors.


  • Despite a record 61,158 rape reports to the police, the CPS only charged 88 more suspects in 2020/21 than in the previous year

  • 1,972 men were charged with rape in 2020/21, compared with 3,671 in 2016/17

  • At the current rate of progress, it will take the CPS 29 years to meet their own target to return to 2016 charging levels

  • The number of rape convictions in 2020/21 was 1,109 - the lowest on record and down from 1,439 the previous year

  • Of the total number of rapes, both reported and unreported, just 1.5% result in a conviction

  • The average time from when a rape case is referred by the police to the CPS charging decision has risen considerably from 155 days at the start of 2020/21 to 170 days at year end - over four times as long as the time taken for all crimes

18 March 2021

EVAW, alongside the Centre for Women’s Justice are launching a Call To Action to keep the pressure on the CPS and the Government and ensure that there is justice for rape survivors. We know our supporters are as disappointed as us with Monday’s judgment which failed to hold the CPS accountable for the devastating drop in rape prosecutions.

We urge women across England and Wales to continue this fight with us by:

1 Responding to the Home Office’s current consultation on its national Violence against Women and Girls Strategy by 11:45pm on 26 March 2021 https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-against-women-and-girls-vawg-call-for-evidence. If they are flooded with responses all echoing the same concerns, it will be hard for them to ignore – ask the government to act on the recommendations in our joint report, The Decriminalisation of Rape here

2 Demanding the CPS waive their legal costs. The £75,000 CrowdJustice funds we raised came from the pockets of survivors, activists and those working with victims. EVAW and CWJ could use these funds to continue to help women get justice after rape. Please email the CPS via the feedback form( https://contact.cps.gov.uk/forms/feedback/) and tweet Max Hill @MaxHillQC @CPSUK & @attorneygeneral

15 March 2021

Today’s judgement delivered online, by three senior Justices – including the Lord Chief Justice – declines to examine the evidence presented on vehalf of EVAW by the Centre for Women’s Justice, and instead accepts the case made by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that there had been no change ‘in substance’ to the policy that the CPS apply when they consider whether or not to prosecute a serious sexual offence.

This decision follows a shocking and unprecedented collapse in the volume and percentage of rape allegations resulting in a prosecution between 2016 and 2020. Between 2009/10 and 2016/17, an average of 3,446 rape allegations were charged per year. In 2017/18, the annual volume of prosecutions had fallen by almost a quarter, and by 2018/19, it had dropped by over a half – with only 1,758 prosecutions being pursued by the CPS, despite a total of 55,000 allegations being reported that year to the police.

The case attracted enormous public support and attention including almost 4,000 individual donations via a Crowdjustice page to support the costs of bringing this action. EVAW will now be expected to turn over £75,000 in costs raised from a public appeal to the CPS, unless the DPP waives those costs.

26/27 January 2021

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), represented by lawyers from the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), were granted permission for this special and unusual full hearing by the Court of Appeal last July.

The Court of Appeal decided that the legal arguments and evidence that senior CPS managers recklessly encouraged its prosecutors to ‘put a touch on the tiller’ of their charging decisions in 2016 and 2017, was arguable and should go to full hearing.

The judicial review case was originally denied permission for a full hearing in March 2020, but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in July 2020.  That court decided, unusually, that the judicial review would be heard by a fully constituted Court of Appeal with three senior judges sitting all day on 26 and 27 January.

November 2020

READ: Full Report

READ: Full Report – Large print

READ: Letter to Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland

55,259 rapes reported last year; but only 2,102 prosecutions and 1,439 convictions

Leading Women’s Organisations find ‘rape myths’ throughout the police and courts system

Call for major changes to police and prosecutor work practices, a Special Commission on Juries, wraparound victim support, and research on which women don’t report rape

A group of women’s rights organisations publish a new report today (30 November), which will be discussed by MPs this afternoon (1) examining the parlous state of rape investigations and prosecutions in England and Wales, and calling for radical changes relating to police and prosecutor working practices, and the evidence and jury systems in court.

The groups have sent the report to Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland who is overseeing a cross-government review of rape in the justice system, which is due to report imminently (2), and have asked to meet with him.

The new 80-page report by the Centre for Women’s Justice, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Imkaan and Rape Crisis England and Wales, ‘The Decriminalisation of Rape: Why the justice system is failing rape survivors and what needs to change’, refers to ongoing legal action against the CPS for failings in this area (3), and sets out overwhelming evidence that rape cases are being dropped when they should not be.

June 2020

NEWS: We have decided to make the material that formed the basis of our judicial review against the CPS, for their failure to prosecute rape, public. We wanted to share the evidence we amassed as part of our claim and thought the best way to do this was to host the documents here. We have shared our bundle with the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland and the Rape Review team to try and push for the highest level of invovlement and ambition in improving the criminal justice system for survivors of rape. Our Press Release is here.

Several of the documents we have pulled out from the main bundles for ease as the entirety amounts to around 5000 pages. We believe these are the most pertinent and strongest parts of our evidence:


Whistleblower Statement

Case Studies ‘dossier’

Statement of Facts & Grounds*

EVAW Director Statement

Imkaan Reclaiming Voice CJS briefing June 2020

Letter to Justice Secretary 30 June 2020

*An unredacted Statement of Facts & Grounds was temporarily & mistakenly hosted on our website on 30th June. It referenced a report that, pursuant to a court order,  we didn’t have permission to share. If you downloaded it, you should delete it immediately and refer only to the redacted version here.


The Full Bundle is available here on our legal representatives the Centre for Women’s Justice’s website.


March 2020

At a hearing at the High Court in March in relation to the Judicial Review of the CPS for their failure to prosecute rape, EVAW, represented by our lawyers Centre for Women’s Justice, were not granted permission to proceed to a full hearing. This was hugely disappointing. Permission to proceed further was denied mainly on the grounds that it wasn’t the role of Judicial Review to determine disputed facts. In this case, where 12 volumes of compelling evidence presented by women’s groups was denied by the DPP because of his constitutional role as head of the CPS, they had to defer to his position.

We have no regrets about bringing this case. It was the right thing to do, and it was entirely necessary to challenge our justice system institutions when they are failing to keep women safe and deliver access to justice. We have lodged an appeal and are awaiting the outcome of this.

25 October 2019

The government Rape Review of the criminal justice response to rape is ongoing, and the CPS VAWG report released in September  showed even further drops in charging rates for rape, with the lowest rate on record. This evidenced, yet again, the scale of the problem. EVAW then soon commenced their Judicial Review of the CPS for their failure to prosecute rape. Papers have now been issued and served and we are awaiting response from the CPS. In order to fund the legal challenge we have set up a CrowdJustice page which has raised over 30k.

There has been a disappointing absence of political commentary on this issue. EVAW has been calling on ministers and senior leadership within the criminal justice system to ensure that the Rape Review is carried out meaningfully and effectively.

In a recent PMQ Naseem Shah Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities question the Prime Minster, asking whether he agreed that any woman who is subjected to sexual abuse should be believed.

In his response the Prime Minister appeared to recognise the importance of support and described the level of successful prosecutions as “frankly inadequate” saying “women must have the confidence that crimes of domestic violence and sexual violence are treated seriously by our law enforcement systems”. His full response is here.

6 March 2019

The Home Office released their refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls strategy which included a complete review of the way the criminal justice system responds to rape, something EVAW has long campaigned for. It also contained broader commitments to tackling online offences and sexual harassment in the workplace as well as building quality work with perpetrators of abuse to prevent re-offending. However there were notable omissions, such as a failure to address migrant women who are facing VAWG and the absence of adequate funding for specialist services within the sector. Our full response is available here.

20 November 2018

John Gillen, a recently retired senior judge, was asked to undertake a review of the justice system’s response to serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland. The Gillen Report is a compelling read, he talked to all interested parties and makes bold recommendations including calling for advice and representation for rape victims, better education to tackle rape myths and measures to help jurors make better decisions. It’s vital that we learn these lessons across the UK, which is why we now need an independent review of how the justice system handles rape and sexual assault in England and Wales.

15 November 2018

The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox QC published a review of “the efficiency and effectiveness of disclosure in the criminal justice system”. As this campaign has consistently shown, the way information is collected from women when they report rape – how many are asked to sign away access to all of their personal information, both on their phones and their medical and school records – can put them off reporting and add to feelings of violation and intrusion. There are real concerns about how relevant all of this information is and that it is being used to make a judgement about women’s ‘character’ and whether or not they will be a sympathetic witness for a jury. There is a real risk sexual history evidence, in the main banned in court, is being used to make decisions about whether to progress with a prosecution. The review carried out by the Attorney General largely ignored these concerns and failed to make significant recommendations in how to protect victim’s privacy and right to justice.

23 October 2018

The Women and Equalities Select Committee of MPs report on their inquiry into sexual harassment of women and girls. The report highlights how common this form of abuse ism and that for many women it can feel “relentless”. The MPs make a powerful set of recommendations, and call for action from private and public sector bodies.

28 September 2018

Lawyers are preparing to bring a case against the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) for dropping rape cases where the available evidence was strong. Women’s groups have also written to The Guardian demanding political intervention after the series of revelations on the justice systems’s failure on rape. Women lawyers have previously stepped in to hold state authorities to account when there was a failure to ensure women’s safety and equality.

26 September 2018

CPS release figures revealing a collapse in the number of rape cases which resulted in a suspect being charged, despite a huge increase in the number of survivors reporting to the police. In an editorial, The Guardian said low conviction rates should lead to renewed efforts to improve the criminal justice system.

Sarah Green provided an analysis of the issues raised by the report, and challenged the CPSs leadership on The World at One on BBC Radio 4.

25 September 2018

FOI reveals police are demanding almost unfettered access to highly personal records and data from rape victims before pressing ahead with their cases. Experts warn of a postcode lottery as, in some areas, complainants asked to disclose health records and all electronic data.

24 September 2018

Prosecutors urged to ditch ‘weak’ rape cases to improve figures according to insiders. The controversial advice to take a proportion of “weak cases out of the system” has been given to specialist rape prosecutors in training seminars, which has led some staff to fear the service has undertaken an undeclared change in policy.

23 September 2018

In the first of a series exposing how the system is failing to prosecute rape, FOI figures reveal men aged 18-24 are less likely to be found guilty of rape than older men. The conviction rate last year in rape only trials involving 18-24 year-old men was 32% – the lowest of any age group. The number of successful prosecutions against men aged 25-59 was 46 %.

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Women's groups are calling for an independent review of how rape is handled by the justice system. Next time you speak to your MP please let them know this is a priority.

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