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Rape campaigners face Crown Prosecution Service at Court of Appeal

26 Jan 2021

A coalition of women’s organisations face the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the Court of Appeal in a two-day judicial review hearing on 26 and 27 January 2021, as three of the country’s most senior judges consider whether the CPS unlawfully changed its policy and practice on decision-making in rape cases.

Campaigners say this led to a catastrophic collapse in the numbers of rape cases going to court, and has contributed significantly to what commentators have called, “the effective decriminalisation of rape”.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), represented by lawyers from the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), were granted permission for this special and unusual full hearing by the Court of Appeal last July.

The Court of Appeal decided that the legal arguments and evidence that senior CPS managers recklessly encouraged its prosecutors to ‘put a touch on the tiller’ of their charging decisions in 2016 and 2017, was arguable and should go to full hearing.

The women’s coalition evidence includes:

  • a detailed statistical analysis of CPS case outcomes over a decade
  • a whistleblower statement
  • a ‘dossier’ of cases brought to EVAW and CWJ by women whose cases weren’t charged
  • hundreds of supporting documents

EVAW Coalition Director Sarah Green said:

“We have felt compelled to bring this case because it is very clear from the data, and from what women using the support services provided by our members are experiencing, that the bar has been raised on charging in rape cases – leaving women denied justice and dangerous offenders getting away with it.

“We have been overwhelmed by wide public support for our bringing this legal action – including all the donations to our crowdfund for this case – which indicate the strong public concern about this matter. We are here for every woman and girl who has sought, is seeking or will seek justice in the future.”

The judicial review case was originally denied permission for a full hearing in March 2020, but that decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in July 2020.  That court decided, unusually, that the judicial review would be heard by a fully constituted Court of Appeal with three senior judges sitting all day on 26 and 27 January.

CWJ Director Harriet Wistrich said:

“There is a lot at stake for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The CPS are virtually untouchable in law, and this case seeks to shine a light on their approach to decision making, and hold them accountable for unilateral changes in policy which have impacted the lives of thousands of women and girls seeking justice.”

The case has attracted enormous public attention; a crowdfund to cover EVAW’s costs has gone viral and included 100s of messages from those pledging £10 and £20 gifts, including:

“I want change. Because I won’t get justice for what was done to me.”

“I think my case is about to be dropped. I’m not an innocent-enough victim. If they take my phone they’ll find my sexual history which has been wild and joyful but I know they’ll use it against me. I think they’ll use all their resources to suggest a woman like me can’t be raped. But I was raped.”

“I myself have been let down by our justice system and support other women who have also been grievously let down too. The way this crime is considered is out of date, unfair and completely unjust. Thank you for standing up for every victim.”

“Thank you for standing up for me, no one will ever pay for the abuse done to me, except me for the rest of my life.”

“This needs to be fought. Thank you for doing it for all of us.”