Date of publication: 17 Dec 2019
Since HMCPSI last inspected Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Units in 2016 there has been a substantial increase in the number of allegations of rape and yet the number of rape prosecutions has fallen significantly. In the year ending March 2019 alone there were 58,657 allegations of rape, but there were only 1,925 successful prosecutions. The inspection looks at a small part of the overall picture – that is the role of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Inspectors examined 450 rape flagged cases – 200 cases which were ‘admin finalised’ which are cases sent back by the CPS to the police for further investigation, and 250 cases split equally between charges and CPS No Further Action (NFA) decisions. Other evidence gathered included interviews with legal managers, focus groups with RASSO lawyers, reviews of documents and information provided by the CPS and analysis of performance data.
The key findings from there report were:
- Since 2016, the number of cases prosecuted by the CPS has fallen by 52%. This is despite the fact that there has been a 43% rise in the number of rape allegations to the police.
- But there has been a 23% fall in the number of cases referred to the CPS for a decision by the police. This reduction means that while reports of rape to the police have nearly doubled, a significant number of these cases have not been referred to the CPS.
- Nearly a third of all the cases which the CPS received from the police were ‘admin finalised’. These are cases which are sent back by the CPS to the police for further investigation.
- There have been concerns that the CPS were only charging easy cases where a conviction was more likely, rather than applying the appropriate legal test (known as the Code for Crown Prosecutors). That view is not supported by the findings from this inspection.
- CPS has improved its application of the Code for Crown Prosecutors – the test for prosecutions: in the 2016 inspection there was a 10% failure rate but in this inspection there was a 2% failure rate..
HM Chief Inspector, Kevin McGinty said:
“Since 2016 there has been a substantial increase in rape allegations, while the number of rape prosecutions has fallen significantly – which indicates there is a serious problem.
The CPS has been accused of only choosing easy cases to prosecute, but we found no evidence of that in our report. While the CPS needs to improve the way it works with the police, the CPS is only a small part of a larger systemic problem in the criminal justice process in dealing with complex cases.
More work is needed to investigate the discrepancy between the number of cases reported and the number of cases prosecuted by the CPS. This is a matter for the Government to consider in its Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy.