Rape ‘is being decriminalised’ as convictions fall below 2,0
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- Rape ‘is being decriminalised’ as convictions fall below 2,000
- Rape is in effect being decriminalised, campaigners said yesterday as figures showed prosecutions and convictions at the lowest level in a decade.
- Despite police recording 58,000 rape complaints last year, the number of cases leading to a conviction fell to less than 2,000.
- The findings prompted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to announce a review into how it handled rape cases and a project to look at the myths and stereotypes about sexual violence.
- Campaigners called for action over the figures and one group began legal action against the CPS, claiming that it had changed its approach towards prosecuting cases after the collapse of trials in recent years.
- Violence Against Women and Girls, an annual CPS report, showed that the number of rape complaints that ended in a conviction fell by 27 per cent to 1,925 in the year to March, a conviction rate of 3.3 per cent.
- However, those convictions were not necessarily for rape and could have been for lesser offences such as sexual assault.
- Separate Ministry of Justice figures show that there were 919 convictions for rape, the most serious sexual offence, last year, down from 1,127, which campaigners said was the lowest ever.
- Andrea Simon, of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said: “These numbers represent real women subjected to rape, a crime which does enormous harm, who are then further victimised by a system that does not take them seriously. These shocking and unjustifiable failings speak to a clear and concerted shift in how the CPS has decided to prosecute rape. Leadership across the CPS needs to answer for these figures, which we say can only represent what is becoming the effective decriminalisation of rape.”
- Campaigners claim that the CPS is more reluctant to build cases and is screening out “weak” cases that it does not think a jury will convict.
- A coalition of women’s organisations, represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice, is taking legal action against the CPS over claims that cases are being dropped without good reason.
- In spite of the increase in the number of rapes recorded by police in England and Wales, there has been a fall in the number charged, along with a fall in the number of cases referred by the police to the CPS for a charging decision.
- The number charged with rape has fallen every year since 2015-16, and from 3,910 to 1,758 in the year to March. The number of cases referred by the police to the CPS fell from 4,370 in 2017-18 to 3,375 in the year to last March.
- The CPS denied that it had changed its approach to charging in rape cases. It said the decline was because of a number of factors, including reductions in referrals from the police linked to an increase in the volume of digital evidence being gathered during investigations.
- Max Hill, QC, the director of public prosecutions, announced that the inspectorate of the CPS is to review rape-charging decisions.
- He said: “Rape is an awful, sickening offence and I completely understand why the fall in charging rates is so concerning. Partners across the criminal justice system are coming together to look at how these cases are handled and the CPS is playing its part by opening up our charging decisions to further scrutiny.”
- Rape Crisis said that a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system was “more essential and urgent than ever”.
- Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, called on Boris Johnson to intervene by giving the justice system adequate resources and funding support services for survivors.
- She questioned whether “abandoning thousands of cases of potentially traumatised men and women” was ineptitude or deliberate policy by prosecutors.
- Sarah Crew, the deputy chief constable of Avon and Somerset police, and the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for rape and adult sexual offences, said that the decline in convictions reflected “a justice system that is stretched and under pressure”.
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