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Number of rape cases charged drops

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EVAW, CPS, report, rape, cases, charged, numbers drop, What changed in CPS policy and practice over the last 18 months?

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) put its annual report on prosecuting crimes of violence against women and girls out yesterday – although you wouldn’t know it, because there was no media statement, no spokesperson…

What’s in this report then?

Well – just a massive collapse in the rape charging rate: 23 per cent.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has now called for an independent review of why the number of rapes charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last year dropped by nearly a quarter despite reporting rates going through the roof.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition said that the shocking figure of a 23 per cent drop in the number of rape cases charged by the CPS last year – down from 3,671 in 2016/17 to 2,822 in 2017/18 – contained in the CPS’ annual report on prosecuting crimes of violence against women published on 26 September, comes when the number of rapes reported to the police is increasing exponentially every year, reaching more than 41,000 in 2016/17.

These new figures come on the heels of investigations by the Guardian newspaper this week which have found that young adult men are much more likely to be acquitted of rape when tried, and that senior CPS leaders have encouraged prosecutors to drop ‘weak’ cases.

In late 2017 and early 2018 there was huge media and political attention to problems with the disclosure of digital evidence to the defence, which the CPS responded to in January by announcing a review of all live rape cases, despite it being clearly recognised that disclosure problems exist across diverse crime types not just rape.

The decision to make an exception of rape and run this review, and the final report, are likely to have added to the narrative which is concerned that rape allegations are more likely to be false than other reports of crime, which research shows not to be the case.

In fact, rape is very under reported.

The EVAW Coalition and others concerned with women’s access to justice gave evidence to the Justice Select Committee setting out their concerns on the impact approaches to disclosure has on rape victims.

And the Guardian revealed the extremely intrusive requests for permission to access all electronic devices and personal records, including health, social services and school records, are routinely made by some police forces to those who report rape before they begin an investigation.

Women’s organisations are very concerned that the knowledge of this level of intrusion and scrutiny is profoundly anxiety-inducing for many rape survivors who are contemplating reporting, and may significantly inhibit women who have been raped from reporting.

That and the fact that the alleged rapist has neither his previous sex-life nor it seems his personal life explored.

The EVAW Coalition’s co-director Sarah Green said: “We need to remember that behind these figures lie real lives, and decisions to seek justice for one of the most serious crimes on the book, one which does enormous harm to individuals and those around them.

“This is a collapse in rape justice and we need to know why this has happened and what those in charge of the justice system are going to do about it.

“Yesterday the Guardian newspaper published extremely serious allegations that senior CPS leaders have talked to prosecutors around the country, urging them to drop difficult rape cases. This agenda of chasing targets instead of justice cannot work for this very serious crime.

“We now need the Justice Secretary and the Attorney General to commission an independent review of exactly what changed in CPS policy and practice over the last 18 months and how we can improve outcomes for victims of rape.

“This review should also include a full review of how the whole justice system deals with rape; from the support victims receive, the way police handle cases and decisions made around charging and bailing suspects, all the way to how the case is heard in court and what information and training prosecutors, judges and juries need to make a fair decision.

“If what the Guardian has discovered about the coaching of prosecutors to reject some cases is true, and if it is connected to this drastic drop in the rape charging rate, then perhaps the CPS should be regarded as having redefined rape without the permission of the law.

“This merits nothing less than independent examination and a report to Parliament.”

  1. Rape complainants’ lawyers to challenge CPS over dropped cases: Charity says prosecutors dropped cases where there was strong evidence

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