A historic decision at the Court of Appeal today (30 July) has overturned a High Court decision in March 2020 that women’s groups should not be granted a full judicial review of CPS rape charging policy and practice. The Court went on to grant permission and directed that the full judicial review be heard as soon as possible in the Court of Appeal itself.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, and their lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice, are delighted that they will now have the opportunity to properly lay all their evidence of a damaging and secretive change in CPS policy and practice on charging decisions in rape cases before the court, and are eager to do so.
Today’s judgement offers hope in a case that has attracted enormous public interest, brought by a small women’s charity and funded by hundreds of many small donations, many of which came from rape survivors. The case has already led to commentary around “the effective decriminalisation of rape”.
The news comes on the same day that the new CPS figures were published which show 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).
End Violence Against Women Director Sarah Green said:
“We’re delighted in today’s judgement. We urge all those following our case and especially those who are elected and who have any position of authority or leadership in the justice system to read the evidence on our website and to ask questions about what is going on. This case has been brought because women have been denied justice and protection. Today validates our resistance to this.”
Centre for Women’s Justice Director Harriet Wistrich said:
“This historic decision by the Court of Appeal, will allow a proper examination of the CPS approach, they have accepted it is arguable that the CPS did change their policy, failed to counsult and their actions ultimately led to a fall in rape prosecutions which discriminates against women who are the majority of victims. This may amount to systemic illegality”
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 (2), following another CWJ case challenging this practice.
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.
The evidence in the case is so powerful that EVAW, in an unprecedented move, made all the information they compiled public in June (3) in order that individuals can see for themselves the weight behind the case.
Need for political attention – Women’s groups have consistently called on the ongoing Government Rape Review (4) 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.
EVAW and CWJ are available for interview.
- Figures published by the Home Office in July 2020 show that 1in 70 rape cases are charged: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/17/one-in-70-recorded-rapes-in-england-and-wales-led-to-charge-last-year?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
- On 15 July Police and CPS told to scrap digital extraction forms following CWJ challenge: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/16/police-and-cps-scrap-digital-data-extraction-forms-for-cases?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
- Government Rape Review: https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/review-of-how-rape-is-investigated-and-prosecuted-announced/