Responding to the publication today (5 June) of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) review of disclosure practice in thousands of live rape cases, the EVAW Coalition and Rape Crisis England & Wales expressed grave concern that serious questions about how the police and CPS deal with rape and sexual violence are being ignored.
Noting the CPS report’s passing reference to the routine gathering of complainants’ medical and social services records, women’s organisations urge a bigger conversation about what information about a victim is ever relevant to an investigation on rape.
Instead of looking at why so few cases of rape ever make it to court, the CPS are concentrating only on a technical issue around disclosure which they’ve shown affects only about 1% of rape cases charged.
Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women Coalition said:
“We were alarmed when the CPS caved into pressure and decided to only review rape cases – when lots of crime types are affected by this issue – because of the signal that is likely to have sent that rape cases are especially prone to either false allegations or major evidence problems.
“There is a much bigger rape justice issue staring us in the face while the ongoing discussion between Police and CPS is about a limited number of ‘technical measures’ to improve disclosure practice.
“When someone reports rape to the police, they are routinely asked to share huge amounts of digital evidence, from phone records to social media and other electronic messages. They are also asked to allow access to their medical and any social services records. This information is then being used to determine if there is a reasonable chance of conviction, and too often the decision is made not to prosecute if there is anything in a complainant’s past which could in any way undermine their credibility.
“Requesting this sort of evidence raises the serious possibility of it being used to play on ‘rape myths’ and drives a coach and horses through the hard-won protections which prevent irrelevant sexual history being used to undermine victims.”
Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW) said:
“The context in which this review has happened should make us all sit up and ask questions – over the last five years, reports of rape to the Police have jumped from around 16,000 to more than 41,000, while in the same period the number of cases reaching court has increased by only around a third (to just under 4,000).
“It is notable that the CPS report talks about new training for prosecutors and having defence specialists contribute to this work, but in no place discusses the rights of victims/survivors and witnesses or the ‘victim journey’ in reporting rape. There are still huge concerns that someone who reports rape to the police is routinely asked to surrender all of their personal digital data and sign away their right to privacy while a suspected rapist doesn’t endure the same level of scrutiny.
“The whole community suffers if rape is not prosecuted properly. We all have an interest in ensuring rapists cannot act with impunity, and the criminal justice system is fit for purpose.”
Read our response to the Rape Monitoring Group data which reveals a rise in reports of rape but shows charges & prosecutions still remain low.