CPS Data for 2020/21 released: Still no improvement

Need for more urgency in tackling violence against women and girls as rape convictions lowest on record and domestic abuse referrals drop

lady justice statue

Today (22.07.21) the Crown Prosecution Service has released its end of year data on Violence against Women and Girls. This data is a crucial measurement by which we can assess any progress in the CPS approach to prosecuting crimes of rape and domestic abuse.

Charging

In their recent Rape Review the government committed to returning to 2016 levels of charging. (1) This was a disappointing level of ambition to begin with and a stark reminder of how drastic the drop in charging rates has been in recent years. However, these recent statistics show the CPS is nowhere near the trajectory it needs.

The figures show that there has only been 88 more suspects charged for rape since last year, with less than 2000 charges across the entire year. At this rate of progress it would take the CPS 22 years to reach the charging levels that they have committed to, rather than the three years they have promised. (2)

Rebecca Hitchen, Head of Policy and Campaigns says:

“We have seen some big commitments made by government and justice departments in recent months when it comes to rape and violence against women and girls. What we need now is action, and the leadership that’s been absent for so long. Empty promises will not help the public regain their trust in a system that claims to protect them but in reality has let down thousands upon thousands of women and girls. We cannot be expected to wait several decades for improvement.”

Convictions

While the actual number of rape convictions may have increased slightly each quarter this year, the number of convictions across the year at 1,109 is now the lowest on record, down from 1439 last year. Additionally the proportion of cases charged that result in conviction has in fact decreased across the year. Meaning that while the CPS may be sending slightly more cases to trial – their success rate in court has declined across the year.

Police Referrals

It is clear that the referrals from the police in relation to rape are far from where they should be and do not appear to be showing any real shift. Worryingly the number of referrals from the police in relation to child abuse have decreased each quarter.

However the most drastic drop in police referrals appears in relation to domestic abuse, which have reduced by around 25% across the year. We see this drop in domestic abuse police referrals then echoed in domestic abuse charging levels. Given that we known the incidents of domestic abuse increased during the pandemic this is alarming.

The CPS has been made aware of its failings when it comes to tackling violence against women and girls. See the data and evidence which we compiled in our judicial review evidence and our joint report with partners into the Decriminalisation of Rape – the findings of which have been echoed in recent inspectorate reports. (3)  While it is recognised that this year has been turbulent due to the ongoing pandemic, what we need to see now is the prioritisation of meaningful change including a shift in culture, and data that reflects the impact those changes are having.

Notes to Editors

(1) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/end-to-end-rape-review-report-on-findings-and-actions

(2) End of year rape charges: 1955; 2015/16 rape charges 3910.

(3) https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/inspection-into-police-and-cps-calls-for-a-criminal-justice-culture-shift-to-deal-with-an-epidemic-of-vawg/

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