Prosecution of Rape Cases in England and Wales at a 10-year Low, But Why?

November 20, 2019

Recent figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service (Crown Prosecution Service) outline that rape prosecutions, convictions, and charges are at their lowest levels in over a decade. The notable fall in numbers has raised questions as to whether there has been a change in policy, procedure or handling of rape and sexual assault cases in the criminal justice system.

What can we learn from the recent Crown Prosecution Service figures? 

In the last year, there has been a noticeable decline in the number of rape cases being taken forward by Crown Prosecution Service. The latest figures show:

  • The number of cases fell from 2822 to 1758, representing a 38% decrease. 
  • The number of prosecutions fell from 4517 to 3034, representing a 33% decrease.

However, there were more reports recorded by police in the same period (between March 2018 and March 2019). The number of rapes reported to police during this time increased from 54,045 to 58,657, representing a 9% increase.

Analysing the data, this means that there were only three convictions per 100 alleged rapes reported to police across England and Wales that year. So, what has changed? 

Why are fewer rape cases being prosecuted by Crown Prosecution Service? 

The Crown Prosecution Service has provided several reasons for the discrepancy in the number of rape cases reported and the percentage going to court compared to previous years. It noted the following reasons in particular:

The police are referring fewer cases to Crown Prosecution Service and the police fail to respond to requests for further information regarding cases referred in a timely manner. 

Police referrals have declined by 27% since 2014. However, in the same period, the rate of cases that the Crown Prosecution Service have decided to prosecute has fallen by 51%, indicating that the fall has more to do with decisions made by the Crown Prosecution Service than with police. 

Rape cases are becoming increasingly complex

Full disclosure has become common in the investigation of rape cases, requiring rape complainants to provide the police with full access to digital devices. Where complainants refuse to grant access to digital devices and personal records in the interests of disclosure, they may have their cases dropped. 

Has the Crown Prosecution Service changed prosecution priorities or policy? 

Last year, the Guardian reported that Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors were instructed to improve conviction rates by taking “the weak cases out of the system”. However, this has been strongly denied, as has any change to Crown Prosecution Service policy in prosecuting rape cases. 

Contact Richard Egan of Tuckers Solicitors, Expert Criminal Defence Lawyer

If you have been accused of rape or sexual assault, you need expert advice you can rely on. Stuart Sutton is a highly experienced sexual offences defence lawyer and can provide in-depth preparation and professional representation.  Contact Richard today by calling 02033895072.