A legal action against the Crown Prosecution Service began in the High Court yesterday arguing that it had covertly introduced ‘a small cultural shift’ in terms of its approach to rape that has had ‘a butterfly effect’ leading to a marked drop off in cases charged. The End Violence Against Women Coalition, which claims that their action is supported by whistleblower evidence, believes that the policy change ‘discriminates against women and girls’ and is ‘a major failure to protect their human rights’. ‘It is appalling that such a change should be implemented at a time when more women than ever are coming forward and reporting this serious crime,’ the group argues.
The coalition is being represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ). ‘In the last two months our lawyers at the CWJhave been tirelessly building and finalising the case against the CPS and we are extremely confident in the evidence that has been amassed,’commented the coalition’s campaigns manager Rebecca Hitchen; adding that statistics released last week revealed the prosecution rate to be the lowest on record (as reported on the Justice Gap here).
‘Every day survivors of rape are being failed by a criminal justice system which appears to have effectively decriminalised rape,’ Hitchen commented. ‘We argue that CPS leaders have quietly changed their approach to decision-making in rape cases, switching from building cases based on their ‘merits’ back to second-guessing jury prejudices.’
Harriet Wistrich, the CWJ’s director,that they action was supported by ‘a large mass of compelling evidence from a range of sources, including expert statistical analysis, whistle blowing testimony, a dossier of 20 cases and accounts from police and frontline advocates’ illustrating ‘a small cultural shift at the top of the CPS has had a butterfly effect leading to the devastating changes’. The legal team claims to have a dossier of 21 cases where decisions have been made not to charge ‘despite compelling evidence’ and, in some cases, where themen were known to be violent and serial offenders.
The group cites the case of Rebecca who was raped at knifepoint and held prisoner for two days by her boyfriend who was already known by the police to be violent. ‘Despite lots of evidence of violence against Rebecca, the CPS prosecutor dropped the case saying Whatsapp messages she had sent to placate her attacker could be misinterpreted by the jury,’ the group says.
‘I was told by the police that I had a really strong case – my rapist was known to them, and unknown to me he had a history of violence against previous partners, plus I had evidence of the attack. But a judgement was made about my physical reaction to being raped not being the right one, and the CPS dropped my case. I was denied my day in court and this man was able to walk free and not answer for what he did to me – and if he could do that to me, he could do the same to someone else.’