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Date Published
May 02, 2024

As part of its ongoing End-to-End Rape Review, the government has last month (15th April 2024) released data showing the shocking scale of police requests for rape survivors’ ‘third party materials’ – their private counselling notes, mobile phone data, and other personal data or information.

This practice forms part of a wider police culture of investigating the ‘credibility’ of the victim rather than the actions of the suspect – something the government’s Operation Soteria has set out to change.

The Home Office reviewed case files for 139 rape investigations from eight police forces across England between January and March 2023. In all cases, a suspect had been charged and victims’ third party materials had been requested.

The data found that overall, numerous requests were problematic in terms of being unnecessary, disproportionate and focusing on investigating victims’ perceived credibility.

There were 342 third party material requests seen in the case file review, including requests for:

  • GP records
  • Education records
  • Social services records
  • Counselling records
  • Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) notes
Investigating victims’ perceived credibility, rather than the facts of the case

Only 185 forms providing information about the request were found, meaning nearly half (46%) were missing this information. In 62% (114) of these requests, there were no parameters (such as a timeframe) to limit the amount of information about the victim being requested – effectively constituting a wholesale, blanket request for the victim’s private and personal information.

The case file review also looked at the rationales within the case file to justify why the third party material request was made.

197 rationales were found, with nearly a third (32%) focusing on establishing the victim’s perceived credibility or reliability, instead of focusing on establishing the facts of the incident.

Most (71%) of the rationales that focused on the victim’s credibility or reliability were for victims aged under 18 at the time of the incident.

Operation Soteria aims to shift the culture of policing and police practices which, instead of investigating the suspect’s actions, focus on investigating whether or not the victim should be believed. These underline just how deeply this victim-blaming remains within our criminal justice system, as well as the disproportionate way these practices are used against young people – rooted in misconceptions about young people’s reliability.

75% of third party material requests were made pre-charge, and the most common week materials were requested was the first week after the incident was recorded by the police. This demonstrates what women’s organisations have long known about the routine way these requests are being made pre-emptively by the police, rather than in response to an actual need.

That’s why we’re delighted that the government has amended the law to limit when the police can request rape survivors’ private counselling notes, following our campaign with Rape Crisis England & Wales, Centre for Women’s Justice and Rights of Women, backed by the UK’s main professional bodies for therapists.

Slow, creeping progress in prosecuting rape

These findings come as the latest Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) statistics released last month (18th April 2024) showing it is making incremental progress in prosecuting rape.

We analyse this data below, however it is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of reported rapes do not result in a perpetrator being charged. The latest data from the Office for National Statistics released today (25th April 2024) shows that in the year-ending December 2023, 68,387 rapes were recorded by the police (a marginal 1% decrease on the 69,067 offences recorded in the previous year). The number of cases prosecuted by the CPS therefore pale in comparison. Please note have used this figure for all recorded rapes to work out the charging rates outlined below, which differs from the CPS’ data in the table below.

Police referrals to the CPS for a charging decision

In year-ending December 2023, the police passed 7,323 rape cases to the CPS for a charging decision. However, an increase in the use of “early advice” (where the police and CPS work more closely together to build a case) means it is unclear whether these are cases that are ready for a charging decision, or simply cases where the police are seeking advice on how to make a case stronger.

Charging rate

In the year-ending December 2023, the CPS made a decision to charge in 3,717 adult and child rape cases – this equates to 5.4% of the 68,387 recorded rapes being charged.

However, the latest Ministry of Justice data released today (2nd May 2024) shows that in the same time period, charges were brought in 2,473 adult rape cases – this equates to 3.6% of the 68,387 recorded rapes being charged.

Cases pending response

In the year-ending December 2023, the CPS designated 42.6% of cases as “pending response – further investigation required” which means they are returned to the police (who will either try to get more evidence or make a ‘No Further Action’ decision), or it can mean that the CPS are awaiting more information from the police.

Wait times

In the year-ending December 2023, the CPS’ mean average time to charge with early advice is 421 days.

In adult rape cases, the time from said charge to completion of the case at court is on average an additional 424 days, compared with 282 days in 2016.


In the year-ending December 2023, the CPS prosecuted ​​3,533 cases of rape (against adults and children), of which 2,158 cases resulted in convictions – a conviction rate of 61.1%.

However, the Ministry of Justice data shows that when looking at rapes of adults in isolation, just 2,164 cases were prosecuted and 1,174 resulted in a conviction – a conviction rate of 54.4%.

Court backlogs

The CPS data shows there are 2,785 cases of adult rape outstanding at the Crown Courts.

Where a Victim’s Right to Review was applied for in sexual offence cases, the original decision was overturned in around 1 in 5 cases.

How does this compare to previous years?

2016 is often used as a point of comparison as returning to these levels was the target set by the Rape Review.

2106 Data is more limited but in that year for adult rape only there were 3063 referrals to the police for charges for adult rape, and 2150 charges made – a charge rate of 70%.

Where the timeframe charge to completion at court in adult rape was 282 days in 2016, it is now 424 days.

CPS data on rape

The data below shows the CPS’ performance regarding prosecuting rape for the year-ending December 2023. 

16/17 17/18 18/19 19/20 20/21 21/22 22/23 23/24
Number of cases referred by police 4,664 4,764 3,385 2,788 3,378 3,772 5,268 7,323
Number of cases charged 3,790 3,257 1,755 1,819 1,929 2,109 2,788 3,717
Charging rate 63.30% 61.80% 48.80% 54.70% 62.80% 67.00% 71.80% 73.9%
Number of prosecutions 5,037 4,695 3,581 2,183 1,490 2,409 2,526 3,533
Number of convictions 2,921 2,737 2,202 1,540 1,074 1,648 1,651 2,158
Conviction rate 58.00% 58.30% 61.50% 70.50% 72.10% 68.40% 65.40% 61.10%

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“While we welcome improvements in charging, prosecutions and convictions in rape cases, the pace of change is too slow. The vast majority of rapes recorded by the police fall at the first hurdle and never see charges brought, let alone a perpetrator convicted. The impact of this on women’s access to justice cannot be overstated, given we now have incredibly high levels of victims dropping out of prosecutions – shockingly, this is currently over 60%. We know that victims feel left with no option but to withdraw due to lengthy waits for justice and mistreatment during the process. It’s completely unacceptable that this has become the norm for how the justice system treats rape.

We were delighted last month when the government amended the Victims and Prisoners Bill in response to our joint campaign to keep rape survivors’ counselling notes confidential which we hope will result in tangible change to safeguard survivors’ privacy and wellbeing, and improve how they are treated throughout the justice process. This, alongside Operation Soteria, offer green shoots of change, although much rests on their implementation across police forces.

We call on the government to keep improving rape survivors’ access to justice and support by guaranteeing them free, independent legal advice, and urgently addressing the unacceptably long time most spend waiting to see justice. Survivors cannot be expected to spend years in limbo waiting for a court date, unable to move on with their lives, and often unable to access vital therapeutic support. We will be closely watching this situation to make sure the government and our justice agencies are held accountable to rape survivors.”

Media contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Head of Communications,

Date Published
May 02, 2024
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