In the last three years the number of rape prosecutions has collapsed by more than half despite the fact that there has been a 43% rise in the number of allegations made to the police. However the CPS inspectorate claims not to have discovered evidence of cherry-picking easier cases.
The watchdog’s new report published follows concerns that prosecutors were operating undisclosed conviction targets – as reported on the Justice Gap here. ‘Since 2016 there has been a substantial increase in rape allegations, while the number of rape prosecutions has fallen significantly – which indicates there is a serious problem,’ said HM Chief Inspector, Kevin McGinty. ‘The CPS has been accused of only choosing easy cases to prosecute, but we found no evidence of that in our report. While the CPS needs to improve the way it works with the police, the CPS is only a small part of a larger systemic problem in the criminal justice process in dealing with complex cases.’
In September this year a coalition of women’s rights organisations began legal proceedings against the Director of Public Prosecutions. In a letter threatening legal action of June this year, the Centre for Women’s Justice claimed that the CPS had covertly changed its policy in relation to decision-making on rape cases.
The coalition which includes the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Centre for Women’s Justice expressed ‘huge disappointment’ at the watchdog’s latest findings.
Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, called the new study ‘profoundly disappointing’. ‘It recognises that the statistics – on many thousands of rape allegations and prosecutions – alone raise huge questions about justice being done, but it insists there is quality CPS decision making,’ she said. ‘At the same time the report refers to its own survey of CPS managers saying their units are not well staffed.’
According to Green, the report betrayed ‘a huge lack of curiosity’ as to what the problem actually was. ‘Rape is a difficult crime to evidence and prosecute – no one has said otherwise – but it is also an enormous volume crime and it does enormous harm. It cannot remain a mystery or in the ‘too difficult box’.’
She called the report ‘dry’ pointing to its assertion that that CPS decision-making was ‘not risk averse’. ‘This flies in the face of the reality that since the HMCPSI 2016 report there has been a 42.5% rise in the report of rape allegations to the police and a 22.6% decline in the number of rape cases by charged by the CPS,’ she added.
Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said that her group was ‘inundated with examples of compelling cases of rape prosecutions being dropped by the CPS or by the police who say there is no point in referring consent cases to the CPS any more’. ‘Altogether a wasted opportunity to shine a light on this crisis,’ she said.
- Number of cases prosecuted by the CPS has fallen by 52% since 2016 despite a 43% rise in the number of rape allegations to the police;
- There has been a 23% fall in the number of cases referred to the CPS for a decision by the police;
- Nearly a third of all the cases which the CPS received from the police were ‘admin finalised’ and sent back by the CPS to the police for further investigation;
- No evidence that the CPS were only charging easy cases.