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‘New CPS policy to blame for decline in rape prosecutions’

A STEEP decline in rape prosecutions is the result of covert changes to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) policy, a whistleblower has alleged.

Women’s groups will  hand a damning dossier of evidence to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland today, gathered during their investigation into why rape prosecutions have plummeted to their lowest level since 2008. 

It includes the CPS whistleblower’s testimony, which claims that a dramatic change in messaging to prosecutors over the past three years has discouraged them from issuing charges in cases with a low chance of conviction. 

The whistleblower says that this change has “promoted the belief that the ‘merits-based approach’ no longer has relevance to the application of the full code test,” the means by which a prosecutor decides whether an offender should be charged.

They added that this has discouraged prosecutors from charging rape and serious sexual offences that meet the code if there are obstacles to gathering evidence. 

“The change in approach implemented by prosecutors as a result of this new messaging has discouraged prosecutors from charging challenging cases of rape, thereby directly contributing to these falls in the volume and proportion of suspects charged,” the whistleblower continues. 

“I have witnessed at first hand the impact of this new messaging on prosecutor behaviour, which I believe has ushered in a new ‘risk-averse’ approach to the prosecution of rape.”

The dossier, to be presented to Mr Buckland by the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition, also includes case studies from rape complainants who were told that their cases would not be progressed.

In one, a female teacher assaulted by her colleague at his house after a work Christmas party said the fact that she did not immediately leave his house the morning after had undermined her case, even though her phone contained text messages in which he admitted assaulting her and apologised for doing so.

The case of another woman who was raped repeatedly by her husband collapsed because there was evidence of her making “positive comments” about her relationship with him.

In March, two High Court judges refused EVAW permission to bring a judicial review against the CPS. The decision has been appealed.

EVAW is claiming that the so-called “weaker” rape cases have been weeded out in favour of complaints with a greater chance of conviction.

The coalition’s co-director, Sarah Green, said: ”The whistleblower’s statement, the interviews with case studies and other supporting documents show the prosecution of rape in this country is disastrous.

“We need much higher-level political leadership to effect change and get a chance of justice for all complainants of rape, not just ones hand-selected by police and prosecutors because of their anticipation of courtroom prejudices.”

Last year, prosecutions were made in only about 3.3 per cent of all reported rape cases in England and Wales, despite them being brought to the police in record numbers. 

CPS legal director Sue Hemming said: “We share the concerns about the gap between reported rapes and those cases which come to court.

“However, the judgement of the High Court was clear, there has been no change of approach in how CPS prosecutes rape.”

She said the CPS is “focused on understanding the charging gap and will shortly announce further plans to help secure justice for everybody affected by sexual violence.”

A report has also been released today noting “major failings” on behalf of probation and inspection officers who missed eight chances to apprehend a serial rapist.

Joseph McCann was handed 33 life sentences and jailed for a minimum term of 30 years in December for a string of attacks on 11 women and children last year.

The report by Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell found major failings in how the rapist was supervised by an “unstable” team of inexperienced probation staff.


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