Yesterday was a big day for survivors and those that work with them. We saw the release of data showing that rape convictions are at a record low in England and Wales along with the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) unveiling of a five-year blueprint to attempt to rectify this. On top of this, yesterday was also the day that the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition and the Centre for Women’s Justice won a landmark case against the CPS, granting them the opportunity for a full judicial review of their rape charging and policy.
Yesterday, the 30th July 2020, the CPS released its most recent report outlining prosecutions and charges for rape, domestic violence and hate crime. The report shows that whilst reports of rape increased, prosecutions and convictions more than halved over the last three years.
Police recorded 55,130 rapes but there were only 2,102 prosecutions and 1,439 convictions in England and Wales in 2019-20. Three years earlier, 41,616 rapes were recorded, a third less than currently, and there were 5,190 prosecutions and 2,991 convictions.
The drop means the CPS prosecuted and convicted fewer people for rape in the year leading up to March 2020 than in any other year where data exists.
It has also been shown that there has been a 40% fall in rape cases being referred by the police to the CPS. This reduction has been blamed on reports that rape prosecutors have been urged against prosecuting “weak” rape cases to ensure a conviction rate of 60%. These claims have been further compounded by the release of yesterday’s figures showing the highest conviction rate on record, at 68.5% (a more than 10% increase since 2016-17.) Thousands of survivors have been denied the chance of accessing justice through this shift in approach.
We know how disheartening it is for survivors to hear shocking statistics of this nature. It is unsurprising that only 1 in 5 survivors will ever report what happened to them to the police considering they currently have a 1 in 70 chance of their case being charged. If you are thinking of accessing support but are wary about reporting to the police, know that our member agencies will never force you to do anything you are uncomfortable with. Accessing support is not contingent on whether you have reported, they are there to support you to make the best decision for you.
Alongside the release of these figures, the CPS unveiled their five-year blueprint to boost rape convictions. This includes new pre-trial therapy guidelines as well as a push for greater focus on training specialist prosecutors.
We have been campaigning for survivors’ right to access pre-trial therapy for many years. In 1998 a report given by the Home Office established that vulnerable and intimidated witnesses should not be denied the emotional support and counselling they may need before and after a trial. However despite this, some vulnerable witnesses are still being denied access to pre-trial therapy and emotional support on the grounds that it may affect the quality of their evidence or that their evidence may be considered contaminated and the case would fold. It is essential that going forward, survivors have access to this support to not only help with their recovery but to facilitate them to give their best evidence in trial – an experience that can often feel like being violated all over again. We were delighted to be part of the working group that revised the existing pre-trial guidance which has now been opened to the public for comment. This can be accessed here.
Yesterday was also a historic moment for women’s groups for another reason. The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition and the Centre for Women’s Justice won a landmark case against the CPS, granting them the opportunity for a full judicial review of their rape charging and policy. On the 30th of July, the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision in March 2020 that women’s groups should not be granted the review. The Court went on to grant permission and directed that the full judicial review be heard as soon as possible in the Court of Appeal itself.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition, and their lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice, now have the opportunity to properly lay out their evidence of a damaging and secretive change in CPS policy and practice on charging decisions in rape cases before the court. This is an exciting case and we thank the work of coalition and the lawyers involved. To read more on this, check out the End Violence Against Women Coalition’s reporting here.