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Prosecuting Violent Crime

Violent crime covers a wide range of offences including:

These crimes are extremely rare, they account for only about 1% of all crime. Yet they cause significant harm, both to individual victims and their families in terms of physical injury and psychological trauma, and to society more widely in terms of fear. We are committed to prosecuting violent crimes efficiently and effectively.

Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the law, much of which dated back to 1956.

The main provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Rape is widened to include oral penetration
  • Significant changes to the issue of consent
  • Specific offences relating to children under 13, 16 and 18
  • Offences to protect vulnerable persons with a mental disorder
  • Other miscellaneous offences
  • Strengthening the notification requirements and providing new civil preventative orders

Find out more about how we prosecute sexual offences

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CPS delivers justice for more victims of domestic violence


The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has brought more prosecutions against perpetrators of domestic violence and secured more guilty pleas and convictions for the third year running.

As revealed in the second annual CPS Violence against Women Crime Report, more than 67,000 people were prosecuted in 2008/09 for domestic violence offences and almost 48,500 were convicted. This compares with fewer than 30,000 convictions in 2005/06. Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, will be visiting each CPS area next year to emphasise the priority that he places on tackling violent crimes against women.

The report details the performance of the CPS across a range of violent crimes perpetrated primarily against women, including rape, other sexual offences and child abuse. It shows that the conviction rate for domestic violence offences has increased from 59.7 per cent in 2005/06 to 72.2 per cent in 2008/09. The proportion of defendants pleading guilty has also increased from 57.6 per cent to 65 per cent.

Keir Starmer QC said: "This clearly demonstrates the commitment of our prosecutors to combating violence against women. We have considerably improved the training given to our staff and the quality of care offered to victims and witnesses over the past few years. These latest figures prove that our actions are having positive results that make a real difference to the lives of victims.

"I am acutely aware of the serious consequences for victims that can occur when we fail to get it right in these cases and that is why I will be personally visiting CPS Areas to address and support their work on Violence against Women. We will also shortly be launching our guidance for prosecutors on dealing with forced marriage and honour based violence and training specialists to deal with these complex cases."

Deborah McIlveen of Women's Aid, a national charity working to end domestic violence, said: "We welcome this report. It demonstrates that the CPS has adopted a systematic approach to implementation and monitoring of its Domestic Violence and Violence against Women policies and procedures at local level. This approach has been effective in improving the prosecution of domestic violence cases. Women's Aid would like to see other statutory agencies adopt this approach to the implementation of the recently launched government National Violence against Women strategy.

"In Women's Aid's experience, convicting the perpetrator does not necessarily make the victim any safer and so we look forward to the results of the research that the CPS is doing to assess this. What is most important is that there are specialist VAW support services in every area to ensure that victims and their children know how and where to get help and have high quality support and safety plans before, during and after any justice process."

Unsuccessful outcomes due to victim issues fell from 17 per cent to 14 per cent between 2005/06 and 2008/09 in line with the increased focus the CPS now places on supporting victims. We work across the criminal justice system in 127 specialist domestic violence courts, with support for victims through more than 700 trained Independent Domestic Violence Advisers. Similar support services for sexual offences are also being developed.

The new report includes Crimes against Older People for the first time. The figures show that just over 1,000 defendants were prosecuted in 2008/09 and 790 were convicted (78 per cent). The monitoring of these prosecutions is part of the Crimes against Older People policy and guidance for prosecutors, which were launched in July 2008.

The CPS has also maintained its improved performance in other offences. The prosecution and conviction rates for rape remained stable at 39 per cent and 58 per cent respectively, while convictions for other sexual offences rose from 73 per cent to 75 per cent.

Across all Violence against Women offences, between 2006/07 and 2008/09 charging increased from 53 per cent to 63 per cent, successful prosecutions rose from 65 per cent to 72 per cent and guilty pleas increased from 56 per cent to 63 per cent.


  1. Media enquiries by phone: 020 7710 8127. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926.
  2. The 'Violence against Women Crime Report 2008/2009' is available on the CPS website
  3. The crimes included in this report have been grouped under a 'Violence against Women' umbrella because they are primarily, but not exclusively, perpetrated by men against women, within a context of power and control.
  4. Almost 223,000 defendants were prosecuted for violence against women offences in the three years ending in March 2009. In 2008/09, 85 per cent of violence against women crimes were domestic violence, 5 per cent were rape and 10 per cent sexual offences.
  5. 94 per cent of defendants were men in 2008/09 (the same as in 2007/08). 85 per cent of victims were women in 2008/09 (one per cent lower than in 2007/08).
  6. There is no specific statutory offence of domestic violence. It is a general term to describe a range of behaviour often used by one person to control and dominate another with whom they have, or have had, a close or family relationship.
  7. The CPS is looking at ways to measure victim satisfaction, safety and access to support. We are exploring options and working with other government departments, including the Home Office and the Office for Criminal Justice Reform.
  8. The Crimes against Older People prosecution policy is available here:
  9. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    • Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    • Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    • Preparing cases for court
    • Presenting cases at court
  10. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). These are organised into 14 Groups, plus CPS London, each overseen by Group Chair, a senior CCP. In addition there are four specialised national divisions: Organised Crime, Special Crime, Counter-Terrorism and the Fraud Prosecution Division. A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,250 people and prosecuted 1,032,598 cases with an overall conviction rate of 86.6% in 2008-2009. Further information can be found on our website.

    More about the CPS

  11. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.

    Publicity and the Criminal Justice System protocol