The government has today (16th June 2022) released a report on progress made against commitments in last year’s End to End Rape Review Action Plan.
The review and action plan arose following campaigning by the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), Imkaan, Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Centre for Women’s Justice, who at the time expressed our frustration and disappointment at the plan’s lack of ambition and lack of meaningful equalities analysis about which groups of women are being most failed by the criminal justice system and why, the barriers to justice which mean women with additional protected characteristics feel unable to report in the first place, the lack of urgency displayed in the timescales put forward, and the lack of concrete plans to resource implementation of the recommendations.
In the last year, we’ve seen:
Charging, prosecution and conviction rates for rape remain abysmally low despite record levels of reports
The CPS have changed their guidance for prosecutors, meaning survivors facing increased likelihood that their personal therapy notes will be scrutinised by police and prosecutors
The police and CPS inspectorates finding that justice agencies are failing rape survivors and calling for transformation of the response to rape
The police complaints body launching multiple investigations into police abuse of power to perpetrate violence against women and girls, which is now the single largest form of corruption they deal with
The government’s progress update report claims that prosecutions have increased by two-thirds from 2020 to 2021. However, upon closer examination, they are making comparisons from the midst of the pandemic in 2020, a context in which many courts were not open and the prosecution rate was therefore abnormally low. When it comes to prosecuting rape, we are nowhere near meeting the government’s own targets of returning to levels last seen in 2016, which was already a low bar.
Alongside the rape review progress report, the government have announced:
An extra £6.6m per annum in this Spending Review period for services supporting victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Planned expansion of the Operation Soteria pilot, a joint police and CPS programme which aims to deliver a new national operating model for rape investigations for national roll out in 2023.
A pilot of enhanced specialist sexual violence support in selected Crown Courts, however there is no detail on what this pilot will constitute for victims.
Plans to continue publishing further iterations of data scorecards for rape which have been renamed CJS Delivery Data Dashboards. These still lack any analysis of the outcomes relating to victims with protected characteristics, as the data collection across our criminal justice agencies on victims’ demographics is patchy and unreliable.
Andrea Simon, Director of End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“The one year rape review progress report does not tell us that a great deal has changed for rape survivors. Despite any positive spin the government put on creeping prosecution rates, the reality is that in 2016/17 the volume of completed rape prosecutions was 5,190 and in 2020/21 this stood at just 1,557, so we are nowhere near on track to meet government targets in this area.
What has become further apparent in the last year is the extreme scale of the challenge we face in fixing this broken justice system’s response to rape. One area of encouragement is the piloting of Operation Soteria, which could help to transform the culture of rape investigations. Further expansion of this pilot into 14 more police force areas is welcome.
However, given the shocking extent to which police are failing rape victims across the country, we’re concerned about plans to reduce involvement of independent researchers when the scheme is rolled out to further forces. We’re concerned that government plans to rely on police forces to simply self assess their capabilities will not be as effective. The ambition for a new national operating model for rape investigations from 2023 needs significant resourcing and an accountability framework to ensure the police and CPS deliver transformation.
There is little detail in the report on a new pilot to enhance victims’ experiences in Crown Courts. It is vital the government works with the specialist women’s sector to explore how this can make a meaningful difference to survivors who currently have really poor experiences in court, including through a lack of independent legal advice and other support.
Until we can properly assess how the criminal justice system is responding to some of the most marginalised survivors, including Black and minoritised women, and survivors with disabilities and other intersecting protected characteristics, we cannot say that progress is being made on tackling the poor response to rape – and the report is shamefully silent on this issue.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 07960 744 502