Yesterday (20th April 2023) the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has released its latest data on charging, prosecution and conviction in cases of rape and domestic abuse – which expose how the justice system is continuing to fail victims and survivors.
In recent years, rape charging dropped to record lows, leading to the effective decriminalisation of rape. To address this appalling situation, the government conducted an End-to-End Rape Review, and committed to a series of actions to deliver justice for victims and survivors of rape, including returning to charging levels last seen in 2016.
These latest figures show a significant increase in referrals from the police to CPS for rape cases which are above 2016 figures, mirroring ONS data released in January 2023 showing that sexual offences are at the highest level recorded.
However, when looking at data for what happens next – charging, prosecution and convictions – we see that the government is still failing to meet the commitments of the Rape Review, despite the 2016 level target being an already low bar.
Despite marginal, creeping improvement in charging volumes when looking at the yearly comparison, these still fall short of the government’s own target of 2016 rates by quite some way and actually decreased by 4.6% from 757 in Q2 to 722 in Q3 of 2022/23.
Although the number of convictions increased this quarter to 440 in Q3 from 320 in Q2 of 2022/23 – when looking at the data year-on-year, convictions have stagnated and remain below 2016 rates.
When looking at these figures, it is important to reflect on the lived experience of those going through the justice system and how its ongoing failures detrimentally affect survivors. This goes beyond the data on charging, prosecution and conviction rates and includes the lengthy delays victims face in the justice process, as well as other ways the process harms survivors.
For example, the proportion of rape cases being dropped increased to 11.7% in Q3 2022/23 from 11.2% in Q2 2022/23. Likewise, the proportion of non-convictions described as ‘victim or witness issues’ increased slightly from 17.8% in Q2 22/23 to 19.9% in Q3 22/23.
A recent Rape Crisis England & Wales report highlighted how huge court delays averaging 839 days from initial police report to case completion in court, have a devastating impact on survivors’ mental wellbeing.
|Rape Receipt Volumes||4,664||4,764||3,385||2,788||3,378||3,772||5,268|
|Rape Charged Volumes||3,790||3,257||1,755||1,819||1,929||2,109||2,788|
|Rape Charged Rate||63.3%||61.8%||48.8%||54.7%||62.8%||67.0%||71.8%|
|Rape Prosecution Volumes||5,037||4,695||3,581||2,183||1,490||2,409||2,526|
|Rape Conviction Volumes||2,921||2,737||2,202||1,540||1,074||1,648||1,651|
|Rape Conviction Rate||58.0%||58.3%||61.5%||70.5%||72.1%||68.4%||65.4%|
In recent years there has been a significant drop in the number of domestic abuse cases being referred by the police to the CPS. Although this quarter shows a slight increase in these referrals, the numbers still remain worryingly low at approximately 40% of what we saw in 2016 (69,210 compared to 115,436). This drop in referrals translates into a significant drop in the total number of charges and convictions for domestic abuse – a highly worrying trend.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and a number of women’s organisations have raised concern about this for some time. And although we welcome the development of a Police-CPS Joint National Action Plan on domestic abuse, we are yet to hear a sufficient explanation for such a significant drop in referrals.
|Domestic Abuse Receipt Volumes||115,436||112,526||102,205||82,010||81,943||66,101||69,210|
|Domestic Abuse Charged Volumes||80,186||79,203||70,600||57,408||52,817||43,945||47,044|
|DA Charged Rate||74.1%||75.8%||75.0%||73.4%||70.8%||71.8%||75.55%|
|Domestic Abuse Prosecution Volumes||95,443||90,603||82,499||65,285||54,047||54,480||51,526|
|Domestic Abuse Conviction Volumes||72,030||69,133||63,090||53,648||42,513||41,455||39,611|
|Domestic Abuse Conviction Rate||75.5%||76.3%||76.5%||82.2%||78.7%||76.1%||76.9%|
Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“Today’s data is further evidence of a criminal justice system that is simply not good enough. Women’s organisations have long called out the appalling way our broken justice system treats survivors of violence against women and girls, including the many barriers to justice and poor likelihood of a conviction. Despite repeated assurances that this is a priority, the government and its justice agencies are nowhere near their own target of a return to 2016 levels of rape prosecution, which was in itself a low bar.
The justice system is failing women while reported sexual offences are at the highest on record and demand for specialist support is increasing. We need to see transformative action to improve the criminal justice system’s treatment of violence against women and girls.
This includes a Victims Bill that delivers sustainable funding of specialist support services, particularly those led by and for Black and minoritised women, and a firewall between the police, public bodies and immigration enforcement. We also want to see action which addresses the trauma of going through the system for rape survivors and action to uphold their rights through independent legal advice to rape survivors and to putting a stop to excessive, intrusive requests for survivors’ private therapy notes.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, email@example.com