Victims commissioner calls for full independent investigation of disastrous fall in rape charges and prosecutions ‘ to tackle the crisis of confidence’ likely to affect complainants willingness to take cases forward
VBQVC today wrote to Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Home Office Minister, Victoria Atkins, to press for an independent investigation into the disastrous fall in rape charges and prosecutions over the past two years.
Today CPS have produced statistics which show that prosecutions have continued to drop.
The drop in rape prosecutions over the past two years has resulted in fewer than 1.5% of the more than 70,000 complainants who say they have been raped seeing their assailant even prosecuted let alone convicted in court. No plausible explanation has been offered about how this has come about and claims by external organisations that the CPS has become “risk averse” in deciding which cases to prosecute have been dismissed by the CPS.
HMCPSI were called in to investigate the reasons behind the drop in prosecutions and say they haven’t seen CPS being risk averse. There are concerns about this:
- HMCPSI find no other answer to why the CPS charge rate has dropped by 52.2% in 2 years.
- From 2016 HMCPSI themselves were driving CPS to improve conviction rates and powerfully criticising areas where it was low. Their criticisms drove some areas to prosecute fewer cases, cases with a rock solid certainty of conviction in order to do so. In other words the inspectors themselves were having the effect of driving CPS to be risk averse.
- This was followed in 2016-17 by refresher training to RASSOs and all reference to considering cases on a merits based approach disappeared from CPS documents
- In 2017, there was further systematic training, conducted personally by the CPS Director of Legal Services in 2017, in which he toured all CPS areas to tell them to take 350 weaker cases a year out of the system to keep the conviction rate over 60%, in other words to be risk averse. This training is only known to have occurred through press intelligence
- Five of the inspectors who did not see any risk averse decision-making by CPS in the 2019 inspection are themselves recent CPS RASSO lawyers who have undergone some or all of that direction from HMCPSI (where they now work) and some or all of that training from the refresher and the Director’s training.
- They were assessing whether people who have been identically trained by them to be risk averse were being risk averse.
- This was done despite repeated requests from me and others to ensure independent participation and oversight of this inspection for obvious reasons
- Nobody else was asked whether CPS had become risk averse. Police day be day nationwide say privately that they have. Rape crisis teams are clear that they have. The last time HMCPSI inspected rape they sent out hundreds of questionnaire to police, victims organisations. Courts barristers judges and others to ask their views but no outside views were even looked for in this inspection
- Of the many questions in surveys and questionnaires put to CPS prosecutors and managers as part of the HMCPSI review, no question was raised about the training and its impact on decision making.
‘Today, I have written to the Attorney General to set out my concerns about the HMCPSI report. A copy of my letter has been placed on my website.
‘I travel nationwide to meet with victims of crime often with groups of victims care professionals. Everywhere I have gone in the past 7 months and asked that question, the answer has been that the CPS has become risk averse. This includes all the criminal justice agencies named above.
‘I am disappointed that it is necessary to write this letter, but many people raised concerns about the proposed inspection methodology at an early stage.
‘Looking ahead, it is imperative that this independent inquiry commences immediately for the sake of justice for rape complainants and to reassure people that offenders, often repeat offenders will be prosecuted
‘We cannot move forward on the basis of an inadequate analysis of current problems. As Victims’ Commissioner, I would be pleased to help as I know would the third sector charities who do such an excellent job supporting rape complainants day to day.’