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Victims’ Commissioner calls for “major course adjustment” from CPS, as new figures reveal rape prosecutions remain flat

“Far too few rape cases are resulting in a charge and hundreds of complainants annually are being denied justice," says Dame Vera Baird.

On Thursday 22 April, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published a Q3 data release, covering the 3-month period 1 October to 31 December 2020.

In Q3 2020-21, rape referrals from the police have remained high, while CPS legal decisions to charge have remained largely flat.

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, says:

“Once again, CPS figures tell the continuing story of how badly they are failing rape complainants. It is urgent that they reverse their disastrous 2016/17 decision to prosecute fewer ‘weak’ cases. This decision has seen the CPS prosecute around a third fewer cases (compared to 2017/18) during each subsequent year and, as a direct result, seen very few convictions.

“Police are now doing their best to make them change by referring more rape cases to the CPS for a charging decision. Police referrals have risen appreciably in the last year.

“I hope the CPS will not try to claim that the small increase in decisions to charge in this quarter’s data, of 3%, signifies an important change in trend. Last quarter, CPS charging decisions fell by 3%, year on year. So, the new quarter’s figures have simply canceled last quarter’s out. The baseline trend remains appallingly flat and at an unacceptably low level. Far too few rape cases are resulting in a charge and hundreds of complainants annually are being denied justice.

“No wonder then, that in my survey of almost 500 rape survivors, just 1 in 7 believed they would receive justice by reporting the crime to police.

“Rape has long been an under-policed and under-prosecuted crime, but over the past five years, we have witnessed a seismic and catastrophic collapse in rape prosecutions. The consequences for victims have been dire. Cases have been dropped as rape myths and stereotypes have gone unchallenged by the CPS and rape victims have been made to feel like they are the ones on trial, with their credibility repeatedly questioned and undermined.

“We still need – and are still awaiting – a major course adjustment from the CPS.”