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Rape victims are waiting more than a year for cases to go to trial, making prosecution targets a ‘pipe-dream’

New quarterly Crown Prosecution Service data shows that in the last 12 months just 41 extra suspects were charged compared with the year before.

In June the government promised to halt a collapse in the number of rapists being brought to justice, and vowed to return the number of charges and prosecutions to 2016 levels (as reported in The Guardian) before the end of this parliament.

In 2015-16 the CPS charged 3,910 suspects with rape, but in the year ending June 2021, 1,972 charges were made, according to the latest CPS quarterly data.

Reacting to the latest statistics, the Victims’ Commissioner for England & Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:

“The government’s rape review was frank in pointing to clear deficiencies in the criminal justice system’s approach to rape. It set out an ambition to reverse these shameful trends by returning the volume of charges to 2016/17 levels by the end of this Parliament. The CPS data reveals once again and in stark terms just how far the CPS has to go to meet this ambition and to live up to the government’s promises to victims.

“In the last 12 months, the CPS has charged just an additional 41 suspects compared to the year prior. In 2016/17 the CPS charged 3,910. In 2020/21 this was 1,972. Five years on and it is hard to see even the green shoots of a recovery and it remains to be seen where improvements in CPS charging will come from – and, importantly, when. Presently, the government’s stated ambition feels more like a pipedream and victims will continue to be failed unless the CPS rapidly and urgently ups the ante.

“The former Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland MP, when recently asked whether the justice system was delivering justice for women had no qualms about saying that ‘no’, it was not, and that in rape prosecutions the system was failing far too many victims. I quite agree.

“Because not only is the CPS nowhere near the trajectory needed to meet promises to victims, rape victims are being comprehensively failed in other areas, too. In 2020/21, the average time from submission by the police to the CPS decision to charge has risen catastrophically from 155.1 days in Q4 20/21 to 170.2 days in Q1 21/22. This is over four times as long as all crime types – leaving rape victims facing unacceptably long waits for decisions. It is perhaps no wonder then, that in 2020 43% of rape victims dropped out of prosecutions, a terrifyingly steep rise from 25% in 2015.

“While the CPS may point to more completed prosecutions in the last quarter and an increase in the number of convictions, this is from an exceptionally low base and is to be expected given the impact of the pandemic on the justice system.

“These figures further bring into question when and how the government will exercise some accountability over the CPS. We are yet to hear anything further on the promised ‘score cards’, some 4 months on from the publication of the rape review, nor any engagement from the CPS itself. It is not clear how or when things will start to improve. But we are well past excuses now: it is high time for real, on-the-ground delivery – and genuine accountability. We were promised real progress by the end of this Parliament, we expect it.”