Call for Government to show more 'ambition’ in tackling low rape prosecutions
Today (12 April 2022) sees the release of the Home Affairs Committee’s report into the Investigation and prosecution of rape.
Article by Rape Crisis England and Wales:
Rape Crisis England & Wales were pleased to give evidence that helped to inform the findings in this report, and we welcome the efforts by the Committee to ensure victims and survivors, as well as specialist sexual violence support services, have been consulted throughout. There is a clear commitment from the Committee to put victim and survivor voice at the heart of the report and we are grateful for this approach.
CEO of Rape Crisis Jayne Butler stated:
“We welcome the Home Affairs Committee’s report, which emphasises what we at Rape Crisis England & Wales have been saying for years: the criminal justice system is categorically failing rape victims and survivors and steps from the Government to rectify the situation lack ambition – they must do more. Furthermore, the report recognises that the justice system is causing so much stress for some survivors that it is actually detrimental to their wellbeing for them to continue engaging with it, causing many survivors to drop out of the process entirely. It is deplorable that a system designed to bring justice to victims is causing them further harm.
We are encouraged by the recognition from the Committee of the importance of specialist sexual violence and abuse support services as we know that criminal justice is only part of the survivor journey. Long-term and specialist support is crucial in ensuring victim and survivor welfare, and this specialist support provision must be available whether a victim or survivor chooses to report or not.
Key to all of this is the need for sustainable funding. The changes needed to improve rape investigation and prosecutions go beyond system processes, they require a cultural shift across all justice institutions and this kind of change needs investment. None of the recommendations that have come out of the many reports can be implemented without the infrastructure in place to support them.”
“I lost everything through this process. I lost my relationship, I lost my job because of the police process - I was being constantly asked to provide more and more evidence.” – Emily, Survivor
KEY FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS
We echo the reports’ calls for dedicated rape teams and specialised training for officers, but point to the need for this training to be ongoing, frequent and provided by specialist sexual violence support services. We also support the call for the Government to collect data on the number of forces with dedicated rape teams and the number of officers that have received specialist training, this data will serve to increase accountability across regions and ensure that all victims and survivors, regardless of location, receive the same treatment.
At the time of giving evidence to the committee, there were 10,000 people waiting for Rape Crisis Services. There are now more than 12,000 people on Rape Crisis waiting lists, the vast majority waiting for specialist counselling and therapy. Although Rape Crisis service delivery has increased by 41% over the past year, demand for services far exceeds the funding available. We therefore fully support the call for comprehensive mapping and monitoring demand for and provision of specialist sexual violence victim services across England and Wales, supported by sustainable funding.
In its next progress update, the Government must set out exactly how police forces, the CPS and courts will be held to account if there continues to be no significant rise in rape prosecution volumes.
We welcome the report’s recommendation that the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice work with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure as an initial priority that the ethnicity data of rape victims and survivors is collected and published transparently, for example, through the performance scorecards. This data is crucial in ensuring all victims and survivors receive appropriate support during their criminal justice journey.
The report makes clear the need for independent legal advice for those who report rape. This legal advice could help victims and survivors to navigate requests for third-party material and data from their digital devices during the course of the investigation. We have previously outlined our own concerns for the often unnecessary and excessive requests for third-party data, and the impact that these requests have on survivors. Not only are they an intrusion of privacy, but they often seek to undermine a survivor’s credibility rather than to enhance the investigation.
The report recognises and agrees with Rape Crisis England & Wales’ call for the Government require the police and the CPS to publish data covering how many cases are submitted for review, how many decisions are upheld and how many reconsidered, and the reasons for these review decisions. This data should be analysed by sex, case type, ethnicity and other factors, enabling the system to become more open.
The report also highlights our own concerns around pre-trial therapy, namely, that victims and survivors are putting off getting mental health support in fear that their counselling or therapy notes and records could be disclosed to the defence or undermine their case in some way.
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