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CPS issues statement clarifying decision-making on sexual offence cases

Coalition issues judicial review proceedings against CPS

The Crown Prosecution Service has issued a statement clarifying its approach to decisions whether to prosecute rape and sexual offence cases.

The statement follows news that End Violence Against Women, a coalition of specialist women's support services, researchers, activists, survivors and NGOs, has begun legal action against the CPS, claiming that it has covertly changed its policy and practice in relation to decision-making on rape cases, leading to a dramatic fall in the number of rape cases being charged. EVAW has launched a CrowdJustice appeal to fund the proceedings against the CPS.

EVAW, represented by the Centre for Women's Justice, argue that the alleged change in practice, and the resulting collapse in cases going to court, discriminates against women and girls, and is a major failure to protect their human rights.

The CPS statement says:

"There are a number of stories today about how the CPS makes its decisions about prosecuting rape and sexual offences.

Sexual offences are some of the most complex cases we prosecute and we train our prosecutors to understand victim vulnerabilities and the impact of rape, as well as consent, myths and stereotypes.

Decisions whether or not to prosecute are based on whether our legal tests are met – no other reason –  and we always seek to prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so.

We understand that the falling charge rates for rape is a cause of concern. However, it is not indicative of a change of approach or lack of commitment to prosecute by the CPS.

There has been no change of approach.

There are however a number of factors which we believe have contributed to this, including a fall in referrals from the police? and an increase in cases where the CPS has given the police early investigative advice? and where we have asked for further work to be done?.

We have also seen an increase in the volume of digital data and the analysis of evidence gathered by following reasonable lines of enquiry.?

Victims have the right to ask for a review of their case by another prosecutor, independent of the original decision-maker, and this is another way we make sure we are fair and transparent in what we do.

The High Court can also consider the lawfulness of the decisions made in individual cases under the Victims Right to Review procedure.

Finally, we are a partner in a cross departmental review of the handling of rape and sexual offences which includes hearing from victim's groups.
We are looking honestly and openly at how the CPS, police, courts and others can work together to improve the overall handling of these cases."

For the EVAW announcement of legal proceedings, click here. For coverage in The Guardian, click here. For the CPS's prosecution guidance on rape and sexual offences, click here.

14/6/19