Rape report criticised after staff shortages are blamed for low conviction rateIvy Madziva
Rape report criticised after staff shortages are blamed for low conviction rate.
Several women’s groups say are “extremely disappointed” and accuse report’s authors of not being fully independent.
A lack of resources and increasingly complex investigations have contributed to a record low in successful rape prosecutions, according to a new report.
The HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) had been asked by the Attorney General to investigate the actions of the Crown prosecution Service after figures showed that in the year to March, there were a record 58,657 allegations of rape in England and Wales but just 1,925 successful prosecutions, the lowest since 2008.
After considering around 900 rape cases – including those which resulted in a charge or no further action and those sent back to police for further investigation – HMCPSI found the drop in charges was of “serious concern” but said the reasons for the reduction in rape prosecutions were “not straightforward”.
It cleared the CPS of “only choosing easy cases to prosecute” and noted that both police and the CPS had seen “significant reductions in their resources” while cases had become “more complex” because more evidence is on digital devices such as mobile phones and social media which can take longer to process.
However the report said: “To improve how the police handle this evidence, it is clear there needs to be better communication between the police and the CPS.”
But several women’s groups have said they are “extremely disappointed” at the findings and accused the inspection of not being fully independent.
Katie Russell, of Rape Crisis England and Wales, said it was “self-evident that CPS practice needs urgent reform”, adding: “The CPS must demonstrate some accountability if progress is to be made towards achieving justice for victims
“Their apparent lack of interest in taking the opportunity to meaningfully address this problem is astonishing.”
Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the report was “profoundly disappointing in many ways” and “betrays a huge lack of curiosity as to what, then, the problem must be”.
“Rape is a difficult crime to evidence and prosecute – no-one has said otherwise – but it is also an enormous volume crime and it does enormous harm. It cannot remain a mystery or in the ‘too difficult box’.”
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said: “The CPS is committed to doing everything in our power, along with our partners, to improve our response.”
He said he was “reassured” the report “found no evidence that the CPS has become risk averse when deciding whether to charge these cases”, adding: “I share the deep public concern over the growing gap between the number of rapes being reported and the number of criminals being convicted of this sickening offence.”
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