The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) is today (17th March 2020) facing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) at the High Court, as two senior judges prepare to rule on whether a landmark judicial review challenge against the CPS – alleging it has changed its policy and practice on decision-making in rape cases – is admissible and should be heard in full.
Following a disastrous collapse in charging rates for rape over the last three years, in a period when there has been an increase in reported rape, the campaigners and their lawyers at the Centre for Women’s Justice and have compiled evidence from a range of sources, which shows rape case charging decisions have become more risk averse. Such a change discriminates against and harms women and girls. The CPS denies this.
Judges at the High Court will hear counsel for both sides and will rule on whether to permit a full hearing to go ahead.
The hearing comes just 36 hours after a Guardian investigation dramatically revealed that the CPS concealed a critical internal report from its own inspectorate reporting to a cross-government review into rape prosecution problems; this report had found that CPS lawyers have regularly ‘overreached’ and asked police investigators to go back and acquire unnecessary further evidence, which contributed to those cases being left ‘on ice’ and effectively stopped.
The campaigners previously took their concerns to every level of the CPS before seeking legal advice, but found the institution unwilling to examine and address the clearly egregious and ever worsening problem.
The case draws on publicly available criminal justice data showing a shocking collapse in the charging rate; last year there were almost 60,000 reports of rape to the police, but less than 1,800 men charged, and less than 1,000 convictions.
There is enormous public interest in the case. The women’s rights campaigners have raised more than £80,000 in a CrowdJustice crowdfunding appeal where donations were accompanied by women leaving messages including:
“I welcome this as a victim who has been discredited by the defence in a rape trial. The arguments used were sexist and misogynistic and deeply insulting and offensive.”
“…I didn’t even report my rape 40 years ago as I knew my chances of seeing the men convicted were slim to nothing. I really hoped things had changed & women would be believed and their cases investigated & prosecuted robustly. Sadly that’s not the case…”
“This appalling treatment of rape victims must be brought to an end.”
“My daughter will never have justice, I support this case on her behalf.”