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Women's groups deeply disappointed by judges' failure to hold CPS to account

15 Mar 2021

Today (Monday 15 March 2021), three senior judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, delivered their judgement declining to examine the evidence presented by the Centre for Women's Justice on behalf of the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition, and accepting the case made by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) that there had been no change 'in substance’ to the policy that the CPS apply when they consider whether or not to prosecute a serious sexual offence.

Rape Crisis England & Wales joined the complainants in expressing their deep disappointment at this outcome, which brings us collectively no closer to understanding the catastrophic failure of criminal justice in relation to rape and sexual violence and abuse.

Evidence before the court showed that senior figures at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) fully recognised that the measure they implemented carried a clear risk prosecutors might start applying the evidential test too cautiously and prosecuting fewer cases. This risk was dismissed, and the CPS decided to adopt the measures.

A shocking and unprecedented collapse in the volume and percentage of rape allegations resulting in a prosecution between 2016 and 2020 followed.

Between 2009/10 and 2016/17, an average of 3,446 rape allegations were charged per year. In 2017/18, the annual volume of prosecutions had fallen by almost a quarter, and by 2018/19, it had dropped by over a half – with only 1,758 prosecutions being pursued by the CPS, despite a total of 55,000 allegations being reported that year to the police.

In 2019/20, prosecution rates remained at a record low with well under 2,000 cases prosecuted, meaning on average less than 3% of cases reported to the police went on to be charged.

Katie Russell, on behalf of Rape Crisis England & Wales said:

"It is extremely disappointing that the court declined to examine the wealth of evidence presented, including expert statistical analysis, testimony from senior police officers and from within the CPS itself, and over 20 case studies illustrating the significant real-life impact of this policy change.

Despite more victims and survivors than ever coming forward to report sexual offences to the police, the vast majority receive no form of criminal justice following these traumatic experiences, and the overwhelming majority of rapists and sexual offenders walk free. This is a desperate and urgent situation that today's judgement does nothing to begin to address.

We stand in solidarity with those who brought this important challenge, and with all victims and survivors failed by our so-called criminal justice system. We will continue to campaign for change, to challenge these systemic failures, to support women and girls, and all sexual violence and abuse survivors, and to promote their needs and rights."

Find out more about the judicial review and judgement at the EVAW website.