Meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions: 13 June
The Crown Prosecution Service is the primary prosecuting authority in England and Wales, acting independently in criminal cases investigated by the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions is the most senior public prosecutor in England and Wales and is head of the CPS.
Meeting Date: 13 June 2017
Section 41 applications*
The Victims Commissioner (VC) was keen to continue discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) following the last meeting in January. The DPP confirmed that the CPS had collated statistics on the number of applications made by defence lawyers under section 41 in rape cases finalised in 2016. This analysis would be sent to the Ministry of Justice as part of their wider work on the application of the statute.
In essence, the Crown Prosecution Service’ (CPS) analysis showed the majority of applications were granted; few were refused; few cases were finalised without the need for the application; and the remainder did not have a clearly defined outcome of the application. The DPP confirmed that the results no cause for concern, which was also a position reflected in the judiciary’s response to the report published by Dame Vera Baird QC in January 2017.
The DPP however, did confirm that the CPS would be introducing refreshed training for all rape and sexual assault specialist lawyers, including instructed agents; the revised training would include how to deal with other methods used by defence counsel to admit evidence on victims’ sexual histories without going through the formal section 41 process.
Handling of Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage cases
The VC was keen to continue asking the DPP about HBV and FM work, following discussions from the last meeting, where the DPP informed the VC of the CPS Honour Based Violence Action Plan, its aims and objectives and the goal to work better with police and third sector partners. The DPP informed the VC of a working group that had been set with CPS stakeholders to better understand issues affecting victims.
In addition, the CPS is revising its guidance on Honour Based Violence and Forced Marriage, both of which will be published later in the autumn.
The DPP has also committed to monitoring cases falling under both crimes as part of the wider Violence Against Women and Girls monitoring that takes place.
The VC was keen to hear about the roll out of the Action Plan put in place in December 2016 – the DPP confirmed that it was still too early to report back on this, but would update the VC when data has been received and analysed.
Domestic Abuse Commissioner
The VC and DPP spoke about the manifesto commitments to introduce a new statutory role of “Domestic Abuse Commissioner”.
Both the VC and DPP agreed it was not clear at this stage what responsibilities would be attached to the role potential. The DPP confirmed she was part of a wider working group focusing on domestic abuse legislation and changes, which has been set up before the Election had been announced. Both the VC and DPP were keen to see how the work of the group would progress once ministerial appointments had been confirmed following the Election.
The VC offered to help with this work, for which the DPP was grateful. Both acknowledged that the more work was still needed to improve the way victims of domestic abuse are treated and that they would continue working together to make sure Domestic Violence (DV) victims are better supported.
Body Worn Videos
The DPP informed the VC that increasing use of body worn video equipment and the collection of evidence through this method was proving increasing helpful especially in the prosecution of domestic abuse cases. The DPP highlighted that there were regional differences in the police’s use of this evidence capture method which needed to be addressed; she also highlighted operational issues which would need to be considered further by police trainers and others in the criminal justice system to ensure greater efficiency.
The DPP reported that body worn video evidence appeared to be more effective where police officers arrived immediately after a call had been made to them, as opposed to later, when crime scenes may have been cleared up by the victim. The VC was pleased to hear about the benefits of body worn evidence and would pick up the merits of its use with national police leads when she next meets with them. She will feedback the discussion to the DPP’s office.
* section 41 of Youth Justice Crime and Evidence Act 1999 which provides for restrictions on evidence/questions about a victim’s sexual history. Defence counsel are permitted to apply for such an application enabling them to admit evidence where relevant and appropriate