Leading women’s groups challenging the CPS’ failure to prosecute rape claims have sent evidence to the justice secretary including that of a whistleblower claiming a change in prosecution policy was imposed from the top. According to the legal charity Centre for Women’s Justice, a CPS lawyer claimed that the director of legal services, Gregor McGill, led a series of road shows for rape and serious sexual offences for prosecutors where he suggested there should be a ‘touch of the tiller’ effectively dropping weaker cases.
The CWJ argues that such an instruction was ‘very likely to leave prosecutors in local areas with the incentive to second guess what a jury might think and decide not to charge for example in cases where the complainant may be “blamed” for what happened due to prejudice and myths about rape’. ‘It is not the job of the prosecution service to second guess jury prejudices; the job is to build the strongest case possible, based on each cases ‘merits’ and with an examination of the giving and seeking of consent,’ the group argues.
The legal challenge against the CPS for its failure to prosecute rape began last June, permission was refused earlier this year and that decision is being challenged. The coalition, which includes CWJ, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Imkaan and Rape Crisis, have also issued a letter with a copy of the evidence sent to the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland. The criminal justice system is currently overseeing an ‘end to end review’ of the police, CPS and courts’ performance on rape, informally known as the ‘rape review’, with a view to making recommendations for change. Harriet Wistrich, CWJ’s director, said that the ‘extensive evidence…demands careful scrutiny; we have no doubt that it shows that the CPS have changed their approach to reduce the number of rape prosecutions being brought’.
The claim alleges that the CPS’s decision to change its policy and practice on rape has led to a catastrophic collapse in the numbers of rape cases charged and making it to court. Statistics show that last year alone there were almost 60,000 reports of rape made to the police, however less than 1,800 men were charged as a result of these, and there were less than 1,000 convictions.
The features a dossier of 20 women’s rape cases which the CPS decided not to charge including one case where a rape was filmed and video evidence was found on the suspects phone and another where a rapist held a woman at knifepoint. One case documents that the CPS gave the fact that the survivor had ‘enjoyed an adventurous sex life’ as a reason not to proceed to charge.
The evidence included a report by Imkaan, the leading network of BAME women’s groups.
‘If we are to provide justice and protection to all women and girls who are subject to sexual violence, it is imperative that we address structural and systemic racial injustices and institutional discrimination which exist within the CJS,’ commented Baljit Banga, executive director of Imkaan.