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Rape Crisis responds to CPS Rape Strategy Update

Today (22nd February 2022) the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have released an update on their ‘five-year-blueprint’, a strategy they published in 2020 to address the unacceptably low levels of rape convictions (which currently stand at 1.3%). The report highlights the work undertaken by the CPS since the strategy was developed and outlines what further work needs to be done.

The report details three main areas of activity:

  • improving the support given to victims, and recognising the trauma they experience;
  • supporting prosecutors and expanding the size of specialist units; and
  • better collaboration with the police from the very start of an investigation, taking an offender-centric approach to case-building.

Rape Crisis acknowledges that some progress has been made by the CPS to improve the experiences of victims and survivors. We welcome the fact that legal guidance for prosecutors now includes countering myths and stereotypes and the impact of trauma, as we know these myths and stereotypes can play into decision-making. However, in order for us to see a meaningful change in the way rape cases progress through the system, we need a much more significant shift in CPS culture, especially around accountability for risk-averse decision making. We also welcome the commitment to an offender-centric approach, so that investigations focus on the behaviour of the perpetrator, and not the victim. We have been advocating for this for years, as no other crime subjects the victims to such scrutiny and sometimes degrading treatment.

Whilst it is important for us to acknowledge improvements, it’s also important we look at how (and if) these are implemented at local practice level, and the reality that victims and survivors of rape are still facing. Rape reports have gone up, whilst charge rates and prosecution rates have dropped, and figures are still very far off the 2016 targets set by the Government. Since the CPS strategy was released, we have had Inspectorate Reports, the Government Rape Review, the Joint National Action Plan, and our joint Decriminalisation of Rape report, all of which outlined clearly the ways in which the CPS needs to change. Progress is still too slow, and victims and survivors are being failed as a result.

Our CEO Jayne Butler comments:

"The criminal justice system in England and Wales has been failing victims and survivors of rape, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence for many years. Processes take far too long and in too many cases are re-traumatising. 

Although today’s progress report from the Crown Prosecution Service shows a commitment to change this at one level, we need this to be reflected at a local level. There still needs to be far greater accountability for poor decision-making in order to create the cultural change that is desperately needed. We want to see an active reversal of the ‘bookmakers’ approach - where prosecutors are pre-empting jury decisions based on rape myths and stereotypes -  as this risk-averse decision-making continues to deny victims and survivors the chance for justice.

We hope that the implementation of work in this strategy translates into genuine improvements for victims and survivors, but as it stands we are yet to see any meaningful change.”