CPS prosecutors urged to drop 'hard' rape cases

This discriminates against women & is arguably unlawful - Justice Secretary should respond immediately

Women’s groups “appalled and horrified” at CPS leaders telling staff to drop rape cases in drive to ‘improve’ performance

A leading Coalition of women’s organisations says it is “appalled and horrified” by the exposure of an apparent dramatic change in direction on rape prosecutions at the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service), revealed today (24 September) in the second part of a Guardian newspaper special investigation into the way the police and courts handle rape cases.

The Guardian already revealed this week that young adult men are much less likely than men aged over 24 years to be convicted of rape when tried in court (1).

Today the Guardian reports that in an effort to improve its performance figures on rape, which include a target for convictions of charged cases, CPS leaders have taken the appalling step of instructing prosecutors to reduce the number of rape cases they charge.

Far from this being about improving justice for everyone, this action is very likely to result in far fewer individual women getting justice, and systemically reducing all rape victims’ access to justice, at a time when more and more are reporting the crime (2).

EVAW Coalition Co-Director Sarah Green said:

“This is appalling and horrifying. It seems that decisions taken by leaders in the CPS mean many women may potentially have had their cases when previously they would have gone through. This is an assault on women’s ability to get justice for one of the most serious crimes on the book. Real lives and serious sexual assaults are behind these numbers.

“The Secretary of State for Justice should respond to this scandalous finding immediately, and there should be a wholesale, independent review of the CPS’ policy and practice on rape prosecutions.

“It is very possible that what has happened at the CPS is unlawful and discriminatory against women. Just this year the Supreme Court upheld a case against the police finding that there is a duty on the state to protect women from serious violence. The state is obliged to investigate and prosecute rape. The Guardian’s investigation reveals that the CPS is failing in its duty.

“It seems that leaders at the CPS and perhaps the MOJ have given up. They are in denial about the scale of sexual violence and seem to focus only on the potential for miscarriages of justice against defendants. But any examination of what is really going on shows that the justice crisis is the failure to provide access to justice or to deter rape. This is not good enough from the body charged with providing independent, impartial, high quality access to justice regardless of social background.

“Following the Guardian’s shocking findings yesterday on younger male defendants, today’s revelations are damning. We have a justice system that either cannot or will not ensure access to justice in many rape cases. It appears that the whole system is failing and we need all parties to acknowledge this and start again. A whole generation of women are saying #MeToo and will not tolerate a failure to improve the state response to sexual violence. We want radical action now.” 

Notes

  1. See full Guardian report linked here. The conviction rate last year in rape 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 much higher, at 46%.
  2. In 2012/13, the police recorded 16,374 rape offences, and in 2016/17 this figure leapt to 41,186, of which only 3,671 were charged. (Rape Monitoring Group).

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