Rape Crisis responds to CPS report on disclosure of evidence in rape cases
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today (5th June 2018) published its review into more than 3,600 rape and serious sexual offence cases in relation to the disclosure of evidence. Forty-seven cases in total were stopped during the review period, which ended on 13th February, because of issues related to disclosure of evidence.
Rape Crisis England & Wales (RCEW), along with partners including the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition (of which it is a member), has expressed serious concerns about the failure of the CPS to consider the impact of disclosure practice on victims and survivors.
At a time when reports of rape and serious sexual offences to the police are at an all-time high, and the number of cases being charged and reaching court are not increasing anywhere near proportionally, RCEW questions why excessive focus is being placed on a technical issue that affects, by the CPS' own calculations, just 1% of serious sexual offence cases.
Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
"Despite the unprecedented and continually increasing numbers of sexual violence survivors now seeking criminal justice, it's important to remember that the vast majority of those who are raped or sexually assaulted still choose never to report to the police.
The victims and survivors we listen to and support at the frontline tell us fears about not being believed, invasion of their privacy, and the potential for being treated as if they're on trial themselves can play a significant part in the decision not to report these crimes.
We're now in a position where, despite increased reporting, survivors and victims can feel less confident of receiving criminal justice than a few years ago, because cases reaching court are not keeping pace with crimes reported.
Meanwhile, victims and survivors who report serious sexual offences against them are routinely asked to sign away their human right to privacy and to supply a vast quantity of their personal data, including all electronic communications, pictures, medical and even school records. Their refusal to co-operate can see the investigation into the crime against them discontinued. By contrast, rape and sexual assault suspects face nowhere near the same level of scrutiny and can refuse to provide personal data requested.
At the same time, specialist Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) services, designed to support victims and survivors through the criminal justice system, are chronically under-resourced and not accessible to all those who want to report.
Tens of thousands of adults alone are raped or experience serious sexual assault in England and Wales each year. While these crimes remain unacceptably under-charged and under-prosecuted, it's little wonder they also continue to be under-reported.
The criminal justice system is failing sexual violence victims and survivors in multiple ways and at every stage of the process. Rape Crisis England & Wales calls once again for the radical overhaul that is long overdue."