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‘No stone left unturned’ to transform rape case handling, says Director of Public Prosecutions

'Leaving no stone unturned' to transform the way rape prosecutions are handled is key to helping more victims see justice, the Director of Public Prosecutions has said.

Publishing a progress update on its five-year blueprint to reverse falling rape prosecutions, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has set out the actions taken in the last 18 months. These include overhauling working relationships with partners across the criminal justice system, progressing recruitment, stepping up training and focusing on victim support.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, said:

"Without doubt there is a crisis of public trust in how the criminal justice system is responding to violence against women and girls. We want to secure justice in every possible rape case, which means significantly increasing the number we bring to court, year on year.

"We have looked at every aspect of our work - leaving no stone unturned - to understand and address the reasons behind the stark drop in the numbers. We are beginning to see results, with the proportion of rape cases we charge steadily increasing, but there is a long way to go.

"If we are to build confidence that we are taking the right steps, and that all rape victims and suspects are treated fairly, we must be transparent about every aspect of our practice and our decision-making. Leading this transformation will need sustained focus but we are working as never before to get this right."

The report highlights three main areas of activity:

• improving the support given to victims, and recognising the trauma they experience;

• supporting our prosecutors and expanding the size of our specialist units so that they are properly resourced to respond to these challenging and complex cases; and

• better collaboration with the police from the very start of an investigation, taking an offender-centric approach to case-building.

It charts the progress made since the CPS strategy on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences – RASSO 2025 – was published in July 2020. A major focus of this work has been on improving collaboration, including Operation Soteria, an ambitious programme of work to transform how the CPS and police handle rape investigations and prosecutions, centring on the conduct of the suspect as opposed to the victim. It looks at all stages of the case and will be the foundation, following evaluation, of a new operating model for CPS Areas. New approaches are being trialled in five CPS Areas and their corresponding police forces, including:

• closer partnership on investigations: testing several methods of providing early advice to the police, to improve the number, timeliness and quality of police referrals so that more rape cases go before the courts;

• action plan monitoring: making sure that all action plans set by the CPS are reasonable, proportionate, and help build strong cases;

• No Further Action (NFA) scrutiny: increasing scrutiny of decisions not to charge, with police, local stakeholders and CPS jointly looking at cases;

• supporting victims: enhancing communication with victims and increasing engagement with Independent Sexual Violence Advisers; and

• supporting our people: joint learning with police and prosecutors.

These pilots will shortly be expanded to other parts of the country.

The CPS has also published interim fundamental principles on victims accessing pre-trial therapy, ahead of full updated guidance being published later this year.

For the Rape Strategy Update, click here. For Pre-Trial Therapy: Fundamental Principles, click here.