Government says it is ‘deeply ashamed’ as it apologises to rape victims for sharp drop in convictions

The latest CPS figures for 2019-20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales last year – the lowest level since records began

The Government has said it is “deeply ashamed” for “failing” rape victims over years of decreasing conviction levels.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC and Home Secretary Priti Patel said “victims of rape are being failed” and that the Government intends to “to right this wrong.”

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The Government has said it is “deeply ashamed” for “failing” rape victims over years of decreasing conviction levels (Photo: Shutterstock)
The Government has said it is “deeply ashamed” for “failing” rape victims over years of decreasing conviction levels (Photo: Shutterstock)

At a glance: 5 key points

- There are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year, but only 1.6 per cent of reported cases results in a charge

- The latest CPS figures for 2019-20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales last year – the lowest level since records began

- The review said: “The current situation is totally unacceptable and the Government is determined to change it: we owe this to every victim and are extremely sorry that the system has reached this point”

- Measures for the future include a pilot scheme aimed at reducing cross-examination of victims in court by conducting pre-recorded interviews

- Campaigners welcomed the action plan and the apology

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What’s been said

Summarising the report’s findings, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Attorney General Michael Ellis QC wrote: “These are trends of which we are deeply ashamed. Victims of rape are being failed.

“Thousands of victims have gone without justice. But this isn’t just about numbers – every instance involves a real person who has suffered a truly terrible crime.

“Our mission, set out in this publication, is to understand why we are letting down rape victims, and to right this wrong.”

Dame Vera Baird QC, the victims’ commissioner, was among those to claim the review “presents some missed opportunities”.

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales, told the PA news agency: “Whether what has been announced today will be enough remains to be seen.

“But we sincerely hope it will lead to change and we are fully invested in it being a success – it has to be a success for the benefit of victims and survivors who are currently being failed, and victims and survivors of the future.

“Those improvements are long overdue – this is a genuine crisis.”

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “To rebuild the public confidence that has been so deeply damaged by the collapse in rape prosecutions, we urgently need to start seeing improvements, and investments in levelling up across the whole justice system.”

Background

The latest CPS figures for 2019-20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales last year – the lowest level since records began. This is down from 1,925 the previous year, despite reports of adult rape to police almost doubling since 2015-16.

Figures show that in 2015-16 a total of 6,855 rape cases were referred to the CPS by police, with 4,643 rape prosecutions.

Around 13 per cent of reported rape cases in 2015-16 ended in a suspect being charged, dropping to just 3 per cent in 2019-20.

The review said it found no one specific cause for the overall drop in prosecutions.

The Government said it would now develop “scorecards” to assess how the system is performing against metrics such as timeliness, quality of cases and victim engagement.

The review said alleged victims may still be asked to hand over their mobile telephones, but that any digital material is “strictly limited to what is necessary and proportionate” for investigators, and that complainants should routinely have their device returned to them within 24 hours.

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