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Rape and Sexual Offences:
Chapter 1: CPS Policy Statement



All prosecutors and caseworkers must be familiar with the CPS Policy Statement - 'Policy for Prosecuting Cases of Rape'. Designed specifically for those who support rape victims, whether professionally or personally, the Policy Statement explains how the CPS deals with allegations of rape. It is a public document available on the CPS external website in English at and in Welsh at

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The Decision to Prosecute

The Code for Crown Prosecutors sets out the purpose and work of the CPS. It explains how prosecutors make decisions whether to prosecute. When deciding whether to prosecute a rape allegation, the two stage Full Code Test must be satisfied in exactly the same way as for allegations not involving rape. In terms of the evidence, there must be a realistic prospect of conviction. However see Chapter 8 - Case Building - for the Merits-Based Approach to prosecuting rape.

The Policy Statement emphasises the need for case building. Rather than merely spotting the evidential failings, prosecutors are encouraged to think 'well, there is a problem here but is there anyway that we can improve the evidence so that the Code standard is met?'

A proactive approach to prosecuting is required of prosecutors, working with investigators from early in the investigation to build evidentially strong cases.

When considering the public interest stage of the Full Code Test, the CPS believes that rape is so serious that a prosecution is almost certainly required.

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Victims and Witnesses

The Policy Statement contains a section entitled 'Helping Victims and Witnesses to give evidence'. It is recognised that giving evidence can be a particularly traumatic experience for victims of rape. The Statement deals with the following:

  • Special Measures, including the need to involve the victim in the decision to apply for a particular Special Measures Direction from the court.
  • A commitment to instruct advocates who have the right skills to prosecute rape cases including their ability to deal sensitively with victims and witnesses.
  • Information about the rules preventing questioning the victim about previous sexual behaviour.
  • Direct Communication: policy concerning communication with the victim in the event that a charge is dropped or substantially reduced. This will include offering the victim a meeting with the prosecutor to provide a full explanation.
  • A commitment to assist victims and witnesses by liaising with Victim Support witness Service regarding the progress of the case; and a commitment to work with local support groups to develop best practice guidelines.

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In addition to dealing with the decision to prosecute and victim and witness issues, the Policy Statement provides information and guidance on the following:

  • The legal definition of rape, including information on when it is to be presumed that the victim did not consent to sexual activity and that the defendant did not reasonably belief that the victim consented unless he can show otherwise.
  • The procedures to be adopted where the victim withdraws support or no longer wishes to give evidence.
  • Guidance on the circumstances in which it may be appropriate for the prosecution to accept alternative pleas.
  • Bail issues.
  • Sentencing issues.
  • Contact details for groups and organisations offering support to victims of rape.

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