Women’s organisations in the UK have expressed dismay at the seemingly partisan results of a report on rape prosecution rates.
The report by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) found no issues with decision making protocols employed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) when determining whether to prosecute rape cases, in spite of the fact that prosecutions for rape in England and Wales are already at their lowest in 10 years. Several bodies dedicated to supporting women’s rights and protections in the UK, including the Centre for Women’s Justice, Rape Crisis England and Wales and the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), have voiced concerns over the widening justice gap between arrests and prosecutions for rape in recent years, criticising policies which they say amount to effective ‘decriminalisation’ of rape and sexual assault.
Sarah Green, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “The report is profoundly disappointing in many ways. It recognises that the statistics – on many thousands of rape allegations and prosecutions – alone raise huge questions about justice being done, but it insists there is quality CPS decision making. At the same time the report refers to its own survey of CPS managers saying their units are not well staffed. The report appears to leave many questions at the police[‘s] front door, even though the Government’s own analysis of the whole justice system performance in relation to rape earlier this year as the first stage of the Rape Review found clearly that the numbers of rape cases arriving at the CPS and going through to charge and prosecution have declined at a faster rate than the decline in referrals from the police to CPS.”
HMCPSI’s report highlights the official decision making process within CPS as a particular strength of the service; although as the Centre for Women’s Justice points out, a 42% rise in reports of rape made to the police since the previous HMCPSI report in 2016 has not seen a corresponding rise in prosecutions. In fact, in the same period, CPS prosecutions for rape have dropped by nearly 23%. The women’s groups expressed concern over a lack of transparency by HMCPSI, which did not consult survivors of sexual violence when preparing its report; as well as potential issues of partiality within the inspectorate.
Centre for Women’s Justice Director Harriet Wistrich said: “We share EVAW’s concerns about the lack of independence of this review and are most concerned that in spite of the overwhelming evidence of a dramatic decline in the prosecution of rape, there is insufficient inquiry into the cause of it. We are inundated with examples of compelling cases of rape prosecutions being dropped by the CPS or by the police who say there is no point in referring consent cases to the CPS anymore. Altogether a wasted opportunity to shine a light on this crisis.”