Prosecutors urged to ditch 'weak' rape cases to improve figures

25 Sep 2018

An exclusive report by The Guardian has revealed that Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) specialist prosecutors received training workshops at the beginning of last year urging them to prosecute fewer rape cases. 

The advice was set out by two senior figures in the CPS, who addressed staff during visits to all 14 of the specialist rape and serious sexual offences units. 

Sources said the CPS director of legal services, Greg McGill, and the director of public prosecutions’ legal adviser, Neil Moore, urged prosecutors to take a proportion of “weak cases out of the system” to improve conviction rates. 

One prosecutor who attended the course claimed staff were told: “If we took 350 weak cases out of the system, our conviction rate goes up to 61%.” 

Rape Crisis England & Wales spokesperson Katie Russell said: 

"According to official Government statistics, around 90% of those who are raped or sexually assaulted know their rapist or attacker. 

As a result, the majority of these cases hinge on the question of consent, rather than physical forensic evidence and, as there are rarely third party witnesses to sexual violence, this inevitably makes them challenging to prosecute. 

But victims and survivors of these crimes have the same right to justice as those whose cases might be easier for prosecutors to pursue. 

We also know rapists often target those they perceive to be more vulnerable, because they're intoxicated for example. 

But incapacity through drink or drugs is evidence that a victim was unable to give their consent, not a reason to drop their case. 

Conviction rates for rape and other sexual offences are undoubtedly too low, and have been for many years. 

This failure of the criminal justice system should be being dealt with robustly and urgently through measures like specialist training for prosecutors and judges, specialist courts, and education and awareness-raising among the general public, not by abandoning victims and survivors.

 Public institutions and society consistently encourage sexual violence victims and survivors to report to the police, often implying it's their moral and public duty.

But is it any wonder so few choose to put themselves through what can be an incredibly long and difficult process when this is the kind of treatment they might receive?"