Today (21.10.21) the Crown Prosecution Service has released its quarterly data on violence against women and girls.
This data is a crucial window into the CPS approach to prosecuting crimes of rape and domestic abuse and gives information on Quarter 1 of 2021/22: April, May and June of this year.
The government has committed to returning to 2016 levels of charging in rape cases. At that time these levels were seen as inadequate, but plummeting levels of rape prosecution in recent years mean they are shockingly now considered a level of ambition.
In the last 12 months the CPS has charged 1,972 suspects. The CPS continues to be nowhere near the trajectory needed to deliver their promise of a return to 2016 levels, and it seems wholly unrealistic they will achieve it. At its current rate of increase (of 41 suspects across the last 12 months) it would take 29 years to meet this target, rather than the three years promised.
The CPS completed more prosecutions in the last quarter. In addition, the number of convictions has shown an increase. This is to be expected given the systems shutdown that resulted from the pandemic during this same period in 2020. While this is movement in the right direction, there is still a long way to go as volumes remain exceptionally low.
The data also shows that the number of convictions as a proportion of the total cases prosecuted is in decline. This means that while the CPS are rightly prosecuting more cases, the rates of suspects acquitted have doubled. This is why it’s clear we need to be examining what is happening in the courtrooms, not just within the police and CPS. The Rape Review committed to work on this area by the Law Commission within 6 months of the review’s June publication. This work needs to be prioritised and to have clear, actionable findings on tackling rape myths and the use of sexual history in rape trials.
The average time from when a rape case is first referred by the police, to the CPS decision to charge, has risen considerably from 155.1 days in Quarter 4 in 2020/21 to 170.2 days in Quarter 1 2021/22. This is over four times as long as the time taken for all crimes generally, leaving rape victims facing unacceptably long waits for decisions on their cases.
We are seeing a drastic drop across all parts of the domestic abuse data. It is extremely concerning and needs serious attention.
It is clear that the issues that have been emerging in recent years relating to domestic abuse cannot be attributed solely to the impacts of the pandemic.
Domestic abuse referrals from the police to the CPS are in serious decline, having dropped to 16,504 from 21,789 across the period this time last year – down by a quarter.
Additionally, the volume of suspects charged dropped from 13,287 to 10,840 – down by almost 20% compared to this time last year.
Convictions have also been on a downward trajectory. With 46,261 convictions in the 12 months period ending in June 2021. For comparison the annual conviction volume in 2016/17 (the year of ambition levels for rape charging) the conviction volume was 70,853. This is a decrease of 35% across five years with no indication of improvement.
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“The figures released today are incredibly worrying, because despite promises of improvements in prosecution volumes that would take us closer to 2016 levels, we’re instead seeing that the criminal justice system still fails women. These figures must be a wake up to government, the CPS and police forces that we need urgent change in the justice system response to violence against women.
The CPS must now interrogate why these figures are reducing so starkly and be transparent and accountable in their plans to address it. Given that incidents of domestic abuse increased during the pandemic, the decline in prosecutions and convictions of domestic abuse is truly alarming.
Covid-19 has been used as an excuse for skyrocketing rates of domestic violence, but while the pandemic created enabling conditions for abuse, the inequalities that underpin abuse existed long before Covid-19 and are deeply embedded in our society. We cannot blame the pandemic for what is now a familiar pattern of how violence against women is treated by our justice agencies. We’re seeing the treatment of domestic violence mirror what happened with rape – which has been effectively decriminalised. This has dramatically eroded survivors’ trust and confidence in the criminal justice system and needs urgent attention.
In a year when we’ve seen a national outpouring of anger and distress about violence against women and a growing movement demanding change, we’ve had big commitments from government to tackle it. What we need now is strong leadership and an urgent review of CPS governance to ensure accountability for poor charging decisions, investment in recruiting specialists in prosecuting violence against women, and a radical review of a system that treats survivors as suspects instead of perpetrators.”
 In 2016/17 3671 suspects were charged, out of a total of 6611 police referrals.
 Q2 2020/21 Completed Rape Prosecutions 306, Q1 2021/22 Completed Rape Prosecutions 601
 Q2 2020/21 Acquittals and Dismissals After Trial 10.1%, Q1 2021/22 Acquittals and Dismissals After Trial 21.8%
EVAW contact: Sinead Geoghegan
Tel: 07960 744 502