Number of cases taken to trial has plunged by 52%
Rape ‘has been decriminalised’: Watchdog makes damning claim as hard-hitting new report reveals number of cases taken to trial has plunged by 52% in just two years
- Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera blasts top prosecutors for ‘shocking’ failures
- She said: ‘sex predators know they are ‘highly unlikely to be held to account’
- The CPS took gust 1,758 rape cases to trial in the year ending March 2019
Rape has been ‘decriminalised’ by the Crown Prosecution Service, a hard-hitting report says today.
Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird blasts top prosecutors for ‘shocking’ failures in the way they handle the crime.
In a hugely significant intervention, Dame Vera, says ministers should consider taking matters out of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ control to ensure more rape cases go to court.
The way rape allegations are handled has become so bad that sex predators know they are ‘highly unlikely to be held to account’, she adds.
In a hugely significant intervention, Dame Vera (pictured), says ministers should consider taking matters out of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ control to ensure more rape cases go to court
Just 1,758 rape cases were taken to trial by the CPS in the year ending March 2019, a ‘catastrophic’ 52 per cent decline on two years earlier, her annual report notes.
‘The failure to prosecute rape is that of CPS leadership who need to be held accountable to the public they should serve,’ the commissioner says.
Dame Vera, a QC who served as Solicitor General in Gordon Brown’s government, also suggests reforms to protect other victims of crime – including tougher bail rules for offenders and more video-recorded evidence so victims don’t have to appear at trials. On rape, her report says: ‘It is a shocking and unacceptable fact that in 2019 only three per cent of rape complaints result in a suspect being charged.
‘In effect, what we are witnessing is the decriminalisation of rape.
‘In doing so, we are failing to give justice to thousands of complainants. In some cases, we are enabling persistent predatory sex offenders to go on to reoffend in the knowledge that they are highly unlikely to be held to account.
‘This is likely to mean we are creating more victims as a result of our failure to act.’ Today’s document says the decline in rape prosecutions taken to court in England and Wales appeared to stem from a series of ‘CPS roadshows’ where a senior official ‘urged against prosecuting “weak” rape cases to ensure a conviction rate of 60 per cent and higher’.
‘The CPS denies a change of prosecution policy, but so far, it has failed to offer any convincing explanation to account for the fall in the number of cases being prosecuted,’ the report says.
‘Nor have they put forward any plans to address it. If the CPS is unwilling or unable to deal with this failure effectively to prosecute rape, then the government must act.’
A CPS spokesman said: ‘We share the concerns about the gap between reported rapes and those cases which come to court.
‘We know these abhorrent crimes can have a devastating impact on victims and are some of the most challenging cases the CPS faces.
‘Working with police, we are focused on understanding the reasons for the charging gap and are pleased to see the beginning of a reversal of this trend in the past year. However, we know there is much more to be done to drive up confidence in the justice system and will announce further plans shortly.’
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