Women’s groups including Rape Crisis England & Wales have today (30th January 2020) written to the Attorney General expressing their serious concern about the findings of the recent HMCPSI (Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate) report examining the CPS handling of rape cases (published December 2019).
They urge him to reject the report and to look at alternative ways of conducting a satisfactory investigation.
Making clear they do not make criticism of an HM Inspectorate report lightly, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), Rape Crisis England & Wales, Rights of Women, Women’s Aid, Welsh Women’s Aid and The Survivors Trust, refer to a short 'rebuttals' document enclosed with their letter, which critiques the HMCPSI report and argues that it has not answered the key question on whether rape charging policy and practice at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has become more risk averse.
The HMCPSI report was commissioned to look into current CPS rape case responses as part of the ongoing Government ‘end to end Rape Review,’ which is examining why there are such poor justice outcomes for rape complainants from police report through to courtroom verdict. Close examination of policy and practice at each stage of a rape report is critical for understanding when and where ‘attrition’ occurs.
The women’s organisations say to the Attorney General that the HMCPSI:
- Makes a 'poor and inconclusive examination of ‘admin finalised’ cases' - a relatively new designation by the CPS but one whose boundaries are not clear
- Contains serious error and inaccuracies in relation to what rape related training has happened at the CPS
- Was not able to achieve a strong analysis given its poor methodology
- Includes significant generalised remarks about inevitable difficulties prosecuting rape which read as a lack of professional interest in what is actually happening when the high level Government data on rape shows enormously increased reporting at the same time as a collapsing charging rate.
The women’s groups recommend the Attorney General 'reject the HMCPSI report as a satisfactory answer to the Rape Review…questions' and urgently examine alternative ways of investigating current CPS policy and practice involving external experts.
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
“Rape Crisis England & Wales was extremely disappointed with this report when it was released in December.
This part of the Government’s rape review was intended to explore why the criminal justice system is currently failing rape victims and survivors. But the lack of independence in the way it was conducted undermined this purpose.
While there are undoubtedly a number of complex factors at play, with criminal justice outcomes for rape victims and survivors at unacceptably low levels, it is self-evident that CPS practice needs urgent reform.
The CPS must demonstrate some accountability if progress is to be made towards achieving justice for victims and survivors. Their apparent lack of interest in taking the opportunity to meaningfully address this problem is astonishing.”
The End Violence Against Women Coalition is also bringing a judicial review against the CPS which claims the CPS has changed the way it makes decisions in rape cases in a way which is unlawful and which discriminates against and harms women.