More work needed to repair 'systemic failures' for rape survivors

The NSPCC says recorded sex offences against children in the east of England have risen by 60% in fi

The NSPCC says recorded sex offences against children in the east of England have risen by 60% in five years. Picture: GETTY/ISTOCK - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A sexual assault support service has welcomed attempts to improve the number of rape cases reaching court – but called for more work to repair ‘systemic failures’ of the justice system.

This week, as part of a five-year plan to drive confidence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced work to narrow the gap between rapes being reported and reaching court.

In the year to March 2020, there were 997 recorded rape offences in Suffolk, but just 22 prosecutions. Nationally, there were 55,130 rapes and 2,102 prosecutions.

The CPS has launched a strategy on rape and serious sexual offences – underpinned by work to interrogate issues around prosecuting crimes, with a focus on long lasting improvements.

Updated legal guidance was published in October to help prosecutors make fair decisions in every case, while local initiatives across CPS regions are underway to improve joint working with police, including earlier contact on investigations and focus on improving file quality in order to reduce delays for victims and help increase the number of charges.

Meanwhile, three crown courts are piloting pre-recorded cross-examination for victims of sexual offences – similar to the section 28 protocol recently rolled out for vulnerable victims and witnesses.

Suffolk Rape Crisis director Amy Roch: “The current criminal justice system is continuing to fail survivors. Not only is it not working, but for many women it causes further harm.

Most Read

“While Suffolk Rape Crisis welcomes CPS attempts to improve the number of cases that get to court, there is far more that needs to be done. We need to see real accountability and leadership for these systemic failures.”

Siobhan Blake, CPS lead on rape, said it shared the deep public concern that the number of cases going to court has fallen.

She added: “Working with police and stakeholders, there is a huge focus on understanding the reasons for the fall. We all agree that finding the best way forward, is urgent and necessary. We have supported the development of the cross-Government Rape Review and are taking targeted action to narrow the gap.

Suffolk Rape Crisis has urged the government and CPS to adopt calls made in this week’s ‘Decriminalisation of Rape’ report for major changes to police and prosecutor work practices, a special commission on juries and a new ministerial lead on rape.