The release of the London Rape Review yesterday (7 December 2021) further illustrates the extent to which victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse are being let down by the criminal justice system. The stats revealed in the report emphasise what Rape Crisis England & Wales have been saying for years, and which we outlined in our joint ‘The Decriminalisation of Rape’ report: there needs to be a complete and urgent overhaul of how rape cases are handled by the police and the CPS.
The report points to several key statistics, including the fact that 65% of those that reported their abuse to police pulled out from the criminal justice process: this sadly comes as no surprise. Victims and survivors who access our specialist Rape Crisis Centres have frequently cited invasion into privacy and distress as reasons why they disengage. Those that report a sexual offence are often subject to 'credibility trawls', where their private information is accessed as a line of enquiry, leaving them feeling as if they are the ones on trial. It is crucial that police and CPS radically transform how they work, to focus their investigations on the suspects, rather than scrutinising the credibility of victims and survivors through far-reaching blanket disclosure requests for personal and private material.
Other key stats from the report include:
- Only 1% of cases in each of the three time periods studied reached court, which represents a near-total failure to deliver justice.
- A No Further Action decision was 12 times more likely in cases where there were inconsistencies in a victim’s account, suggesting harmful rape myths are still deeply entrenched in the system.
These issues are reflective of a wider national issue. We welcome the recommendations made by London’s Victims’ Commissioner, including a clear training plan on rape myths and trauma for the police and CPS, and central government funding for all survivors in London to have access to an ISVA. In addition to this, we would like to see a concerted national approach to improvements and an acknowledgement of the importance of specialist sexual violence services in supporting survivors. That doesn’t just mean providing funding for ISVAs, but also providing trauma-informed therapy and counselling, like that provided by Rape Crisis Centres. To truly improve the experiences of victims and survivors who report these crimes, we need to ensure that they have access to expert services at every stage of their criminal justice journey.