Rape prosecution review announced
The Government’s End to End Review of the Criminal Justice System Response began in 2019. The purpose was to look at evidence across the system, from reporting rape to the police through to court outcomes, to understand what was happening in cases of adult rape.
Although the number of reported cases has not really changed, the number of prosecuted cases sharply declined in 2016/2017. The research found that the reasons for the decline are complex and wide-ranging. They included the increase in personal data being requested, delays in investigations, difficult relationships between different parts of the system, a lack of specialist resources and inconsistent victim support.
Why is a review necessary?
The volume of cases that police refer to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), those charged and going to court have declined. To reverse the trend, the government says its initial ambition is to:
- Return volumes back to pre-2016 levels.
- Publish scorecards to show how the system is performing.
- Make sure victims have access to quality support appropriate to their needs.
- Ensure consistent access across the UK to the proper therapeutic and clinical support.
- Ensure access to legal advice and support to understand and challenge disclosure decisions.
- Hold criminal justice agencies to account if they fail to provide victims with these rights.
- Victims will not be left without a phone for more than 24 hours.
- Any digital material from victims is strictly limited to what is necessary and proportionate.
- Ensure effective communication with victims throughout.
- CPS to improve the way they deal with rape cases with a better process for early investigatory advice and updated legal guidance addressing rape myths and stereotypes.
- The police and CPS should establish a better way of joint working.
- Improve the experience at court for victims.
- Ensure a victim’s credibility is not undermined by pre-conceptions or rape myths.
A particular step the government say will be taken is to change the way the crime is investigated. The Review found that victims often felt under investigation themselves and that they did not feel believed. It was said that there are patterns of behaviour that are significant features of rape and that proper emphasis needs to be placed on a suspect’s offending history. Decisions cannot be made purely on a victim’s credibility; they require a well-rounded objective assessment of the evidence.
The police are to move to a default investigatory model, one that recognises the prevalence of serial offending in rape offences. This would involve an early robust assessment of suspect offending patterns and behaviour to ensure proper emphasis is placed on it in the investigation.
What are they hoping to achieve?
This action plan is designed to increase the volume of cases progressing through the system. In addition, the government wishes to achieve the following outcomes:
- An increase in victim engagement at every stage of the process.
- Complex cases should not be deprioritised to get more cases through the system.
- For high quality cases to be referred by the police to the CPS.
- An increase in public confidence in the decisions made by the CPS.
- An increase in early guilty pleas – by improving the quality of investigations and increase in guilty pleas is anticipated.
- Improved timeliness of cases at each stage.
- Limiting the requests for digital information from victims only to what is necessary and proportionate.
- The defendant’s right to a fair trial is maintained through robust and appropriate disclosure.
A timeframe has also been published setting out the progress expected at 6, 12 and 24-month intervals. To ensure accountability, the government says that it will publish an update detailing the progress made every six months. A “performance scorecard” will monitor progress against key metrics including timeliness, quality and victim engagement in each part of the system and the plan implementation.
Whilst the government aims appear focused on the victim’s rights, all agencies have to ensure that there is a fair trial for the defendant. This is where we come in; we will protect and advance your rights at every stage of the investigation and proceedings, ensuring that you have the proper advice and information throughout.
How can we help?
If you need specialist advice in relation to any criminal investigation or prosecution, from the initial investigation through to court proceedings, please get in touch. Call John Howey on 020 7388 1658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us help.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.[Image credit: “Rape” by Valeri Pizhanski is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0]