A UK-wide Coalition of women’s organisations, represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) began legal action today against the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today, claiming that the CPS has breached human rights by covertly changing decision-making policies in rape cases, leading to a dramatic fall in the number of rape cases being charged.
The End Violence against Women Coalition (EVAW) argues that this change in practice, and the resulting collapse in cases going to court, discriminates against women and girls, and is a major failure to protect their human rights.
It is truly appalling that such a change should be implemented at a time when more women than ever are coming forward and reporting this serious crime. The CPS and Ministry of Justice’s own figures show that while rapes reported to the police have nearly tripled (up by 173%) between 2014 and 2018, the number of cases charged and sent to court is actually down by 44%.
This sends a strong message to society that rape is not a criminal act and that it will not be taken seriously. It undermines our justice system, it emboldens perpetrators of rape and shames their victims. The justice system cannot continue to operate like a business, cutting corners and strategizing its success. Fairness, equality, integrity and justice itself are being lost and it is vital that action is taken to restore these values and support survivors whose lives are being torn apart and put at further risk by the policies of the CPS.
At North London Rape Crisis, the Solace Women’s Aid team have been working with EVAW on the case by submitting evidence to support these claims.
Mary Mason Chief Executive of Solace Women’s Aid said
‘We provide Independent Advocacy for survivors of sexual violence through the Criminal Justice process. In our experience more and more cases are being dropped prematurely and far fewer charges are being bought and fewer trials are going ahead despite compelling evidence. We welcome this scrutiny of CPS policy and practice in order to provide justice for survivors and ultimately to send a clear message to perpetrators that rape and sexual abuse is not condoned in our society.'
EVAW Coalition Co-Director Sarah Green said “We have strong evidence to show that CPS leaders have quietly changed their approach to decision-making in rape cases, switching from building cases based on their ‘merits’ back to second-guessing jury prejudices. This is extremely serious and is having a detrimental impact on women’s access to justice.”
For women who report rape to the police this means they had a 1 in 5 chance of it ending up in court in 2014, but now, when more women than ever are reporting rape, they have a less than 4% chance of ever having their case heard in court (1).
Harriet Wistrich, Director of the Centre for Women’s Justice who is bringing this case for EVAW, said “We are arguing that the CPS’ systemic failure to prosecute rape is a comparable human rights failure and has a discriminatory impact on women who are the large majority of rape victims. The failures by the CPS to consult on changes to policy, and to disregard its own guidance developed to tackle the under-prosecution of rape are, we argue, unlawful.”
Please support this important legal action to help stop the denial of justice to rape survivors. The challenge is being funded by a CrowdJustice appeal, which you can donate to here: www.crowdjustice.com/case/justice-after-rape
1. The number of rapes reported to the police was 20,083 in 2013/14 and increased to 56,698 in RYTD Sept 2018 (173% increase). Source: Police Recorded Crime/MOJ. The number of rape flagged cases which proceeded to prosecution was 3,621 in 2013/14 and fell to 2024 in RYTD September 2018. Source: CPS
Figures released earlier this year by the CPS show prosecutions are at a 5 year low. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/06/prosecution-rate-in-england-and-wales-falls-to-five-year-low