Dropping rape cases is a comparable human rights failure and has a discriminatory impact on women.
Monday 10 June 2019
Women’s organisations have said that sexual offence cases are being dropped without good reason and they are prepared to go to court to prove it.
The group, represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), is crowdfunding to support its claims, which it says are based on more than 20 cases recently discontinued by prosecutors.
They accuse the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of changing its policy when deciding whether to prosecute rape cases.
Sarah Green, End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition coordinator, 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
“In the justice system there are well-known myths about rape, but prosecutors are supposed to deal with them – not just say ‘we can’t expect a jury to disregard it’.
“We’re not just a shouty group saying ‘Let’s have a go at the state’. But the refusal to listen and to implement what we say is a massive change for the way these cases are brought to court – we say, for the worse – is the reason why we have taken these measures.
“If necessary, we will end up in court opposite the CPS and will have to let judges decide whether we have a case or not.”
There was a 23.1% drop in the number of rape cases taken on by the CPS in the 2017-18 year, despite a 16% increase in rape reports to police over the same period, according to government figures.
Harriet Wistrich, CWJ director who is bringing the case for EVAW, said: “We are arguing that the CPS’s 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.”
Katie Russell, national spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England and Wales, said rape survivors “tell us they include fear of being re-traumatised through what can be a very long and difficult process, with little prospect of seeing their perpetrator brought to justice at the end of it”.
The women’s coalition is to submit a “letter before action” to the CPS later on Monday which will ask them to change the way they handle serious sexual offence cases.
CPS lawyers will be given time to respond or ask for the deadline to be extended but if they do not agree to change their policy, the matter could go to judicial review.
A CPS spokesman said: “Sexual offences are some of the most complex cases we prosecute and we train our prosecutors to understand victim vulnerabilities and the impact of rape, as well as consent, myths and stereotypes.
“Decisions to prosecute are based on whether our legal tests are met – no other reason – and we always seek to prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so.
“Victims have the right to ask for a review of their case by another prosecutor, independent of the original decision-maker, and this is another way we can make sure we are fair and transparent in what we do.”