The Guardian has reported that Downing Street is planning a controversial intervention to reverse the record decline in rape prosecutions by imposing targets on police and prosecutors.
The cross-government crime and justice taskforce, led by Boris Johnson, is set to call for the service to prosecute a greater volume and proportion of rape cases year on year. It is expected to announce the targets later this year.
The move follows steep annual declines in the number of cases referred by police to the CPS and the number and proportion of rape cases prosecuted. Less than two weeks ago, rape prosecutions were revealed to have fallen to their lowest level since records began, 2,102 prosecutions – a 59% decline since 2016-17 – and 1,439 convictions in England and Wales in 2019-20. Meanwhile, reports of rape increased by a third to 55,130. Referrals from police to the CPS have fallen 40% since 2016-17.
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
“This move is a clear acknowledgement on the part of Government that our Criminal Justice System is failing on rape and other sexual offences.
It’s a validation of what victims and survivors, Rape Crisis and other campaigners have been saying for years, and sends a strong message that things simply cannot continue as they are. People who’ve been subjected to the trauma of sexual violence and abuse want and deserve so much better.
The idea of targets always has to be treated with caution though. Targets can be a blunt tool for dealing with a systemic problem. Crucially, they cannot on their own successfully achieve the real cultural shift that is needed for victims and survivors to have a reasonable expectation of both criminal and social justice in future.
There must still be an holistic, multi-pronged approach to tackling this justice crisis. If targets are introduced, they must be accompanied by many other measures we have fought for, including specialist training for all throughout the CJS, properly resourced widespread education and awareness-raising among the general public, and sustainably funded specialist Rape Crisis support and advocacy for victims and survivors.”