The government’s rape response overhaul has faced criticism from within the legal profession for insufficient investment in prosecutors.
The Ministry of Justice has released statistics following the 2021 Rape Review Action Plan, suggesting ‘significant progress is being made.’ Justice Minister Dominic Raab said that ‘rape convictions are up two thirds since last year and the number of CPS charges is also up by nearly two thirds from 2019.’
However, there remain significant problems to be overcome. At the start of the year, rape cases took on average over two years to come to trial. The MoJ has admitted that, since the Review, ‘timeliness has worsened’. The total Crown Court case backlog has increased by 2,000 cases, which the government has blamed on the seven months of intermittent CBA action. However, in the ten months preceding this, the backlog had reduced only by 4%. This is in part due to a lack of investment in skilled personnel. While CPS charge rates have increased by 65%, and Crown Court cases increased by 91%, the CPS has only increased the specialist workforce by 17%.
Meanwhile, the actual barristers needed in court are lacking, in what Kirsty Brimelow KC, chair of the CBA, described as a ‘deepening crisis of lack of prosecutors‘ caused by inadequate remuneration for prosecution cases, leading to a lack of available counsel. The government’s statistics are not informative: “There may be an increase in cases reaching courts… but trial will not take place because there is no barrister to prosecute… Quadrupling funding for complainants of sexual offences is senseless without investing to ensure that there are the barristers to prosecute once the case reaches trial stage.” Urgent increases in fees are required.
The Criminal Bar has voted to accept the proposal made by the Government.
With 57% voting to accept the offer made by Government
Action is suspended from 18.00hrs this evening
The Criminal Bar Association has a long history of respecting and unifying around the majority vote.
— The CBA (@TheCriminalBar) October 10, 2022
Prosecution fees for barristers have been a subject of dispute for over a decade. In 2012, the then-chair of the CBA, Max Hill KC, was arguing for increased fees for prosecuting barristers; now, as Director of Public Prosecutions, he fights for the same cause. After the partial success of the CBA strike, this has been thrown into sharper relief: “There is now more money in defending than prosecuting … We don’t ask that prosecutors are paid a penny more than those who defend, but we do say that they must be paid the same.”