The Home Affairs Select Committee is conducting an enquiry into investigations and prosecutions of rape and sexual violence. We have submitted evidence based on our work with survivors through North London Rape Crisis:
The criminal justice system is not working for crimes of rape or serious sexual violence, with fewer than 1.6% of reported rapes resulting in a charge or summons which is in itself a barrier to reporting. It is vital that the Government takes visible, decisive action to improve the process for victims in response to its rape review to have any hope of restoring women’s faith in the system.
Of the number of incidences reported to the police by women being supported by ISVAs over the last three years, 36% resulted in a charge and 93% who went through any part of the CJS said that having an ISVA alongside them improved their experience of the process. Victims should be offered independent specialist support from the moment they encounter or consider reporting to the police and every victim who reports a rape or serious sexual violence crime should be offered support from an ISVA.
The Metropolitan Police Service have said they will follow new guidance from the CPS making it clear they should only request digital data and third party material where there is a reasonable line of enquiry. Police and Crime Commissioners, the National Police Chiefs Council and the Home Office should monitor the extent to which police forces follow the new guidance.
The restrictions needed to control the spread of Covid-19 have significantly impacted North London Rape Crisis helpline’s capacity, as volunteers are unable to take calls from their personal residence. As a result, the number of calls we were able to take fell by 40% from 2019-20 to 2020-21. This had impacted on the emotional needs of victims/survivors being supported by ISVAs, who report needing to provide much more emotional support since the pandemic.
Through its forthcoming cross-Government VAWG strategy, the Government must provide sustainable long-term funding for rape crisis helplines, counselling, ISVAs and therapeutic services to support survivors not only through the criminal justice system but to recovery.