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'Blame culture' between police and prosecutors over rape cases

16 Jul 2021

A root and branch examination by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) identified that there "needs to be an urgent, profound and fundamental shift in how rape cases are investigated and prosecuted".

In particular, it identified "finger pointing" and a "deep division" between the police and prosecutors over dismal conviction rates.

The report said:

"While we found examples of effective individuals and teams in every force and CPS area, the criminal justice system's response to rape offences too often lacks focus, clarity and commitment. We also found that it fails to put victims at the heart of building strong cases."

The Inspectorates made a range of recommendations, including a change in how the CPS and police work together, and "high-quality and consistent wrap-around care for those who report rape".

Rape Crisis England & Wales said:

“We are really pleased to see the depth the Inspectorates have gone into both with their review and their resulting recommendations. This includes them both explicitly referencing our ‘shadow rape review’, The Decriminalisation of Rape report, which we published in November 2020 with partners Imkaan, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and the Centre for Women’s Justice, and echoing a number of its key recommendations.

In particular, we welcome the recognition that police should work with local specialist support services to ensure all rape victims have access to bespoke, high quality and consistent wraparound care. This includes the specialist advocacy that Rape Crisis Centres provide but also, crucially, the emotional support and counselling they offer, to enable survivors to cope, recover and move forward positively from the trauma of sexual violence.

The Inspectorates have recommended police begin recording the protected characteristics of victims immediately, which we agree is crucial. One of our most important asks in the Decriminalisation report was for an urgent equalities analysis so we can better understand and address the additional barriers to justice some survivors, like Black and minoritised women, face, but this was largely ignored in the Government’s own Rape Review last month.

We could not agree more that both police and the Crown Prosecution Service must begin to take responsibility for their own roles in the catastrophic failure of criminal justice for victims and survivors of sexual offences if we stand a chance of successfully tackling this unacceptable and urgent situation, and achieving the systemic and cultural change so evidently needed.

We need a criminal justice system that understands trauma, puts victims and survivors at its heart and is accountable.”

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