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The Victims Commissioner’s newest Report highlighting the catastrophic decline in rape prosecutions

The Victims Commissioner’s newest Report highlighting the catastrophic decline in rape prosecutions
Today, Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird released her 2019/20 Annual Report. The report, amongst other things, highlights the catastrophic decline in rape prosecutions over the last few years – comparing this to the decriminalisation of rape. The report discusses the barriers to justice that survivors face and the commissioners continuing commitments to alleviating these and working with charities supporting survivors. We welcome this report and thank Dame Vera Baird for outlining the true severity of the Criminal Justice System’s failings of survivors of sexual violence.

The report discusses the fall in prosecutions for rape cases, highlighting how this coincides with reports that rape prosecutors have been urged against prosecuting “weak” rape cases in order to ensure a conviction rate of 60%. The stats show that “whatever the size of the bundle of cases referred by the police, the CPS now prosecute less than half as many of them as they were prosecuting two years ago.” For survivors, these abysmal findings make reporting what happened to them an even more bewildering and difficult decision to make. This not only leaves survivors with a lack of closure or justice but sends a message to perpetrators that they are able to reoffend without consequence.

We welcome Dame Vera Baird’s commitment to rectifying this failure, outlining that “if the CPS is unwilling or unable to deal with this failure effectively to prosecute rape, then the government must act. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue.”

The Survivors Trust’s CEO, Fay Maxted OBE, outlines the charities vision for a fairer process for survivors. “Too often the focus in rape cases has fallen on the victim rather than the offender. We believe rape cases should be heard in specialist sexual violence courts by a panel of judges, with victims given their own legal adviser or advocate to support them through the process. We need a step change in how our criminal justice system responds to rape and sexual offences or risk many more sexual offenders evading justice and continuing to pose a threat to society.”

The report goes on to discuss the many obstacles to accessing justice that survivors face. These include fears of not being believed or supported, worries that they will be judged harshly (by both their loved ones and the Criminal Justice System), and internalized shame and blame. We welcome the commissioner’s commitment to “working with charities who support victims to challenge and dispel these myths.” This is something that The Survivors Trust and our member agencies actively promote in all our work, both with survivors and the general public.

Another barrier that the report highlights is the intrusion of privacy that survivors face when told to hand over their mobile phone and all its downloadable data. It is true that no other crime asks that a victim be investigated themselves before qualifying for the chance of a prosecution. This intrusion of privacy for survivors can feel like being raped all over again. In so many cases, a survivor’s understandable reluctance to hand over their phone will have meant there otherwise ‘strong’ case will have been dropped.

“This situation has to change. Victims of rape and sexual assault are being badly let down. Any victim of sexual violence must feel able to come forward and report in the knowledge they will be supported, treated with respect and given access to justice.” – Dame Vera Baird, Victim’s Commissioner.

If you have been affected by this report and would like to talk about how this has made you feel, please call our free and confidential helpline.

08088 010 818

(Calls to 0808 80 numbers are free from landlines and mobile phones within the UK and do not appear on itemised bills)

Opening hours:
Mon – Fri 10am – 8:30pm
Sat 10am – 12:30pm, 1:30pm – 4:30pm and 6pm – 8:30pm
Sun 1:30pm – 4:30pm and 6pm – 8:30pm
24 hr answer machine

(Please note that there will be male advisors on Thursday mornings)

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