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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 report shows more offenders are being successfully prosecuted for sexual crimes than ever before

10/10/2017

More defendants than ever before are being prosecuted and convicted for sexual offences across England and Wales, new figures reveal today.

The Crown Prosecution Service's 10th Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) report outlines the huge increases in convictions for rape (48%) and other sexual offences (79%) that have been witnessed in the decade since the first VAWG report was published in 2007-08.

It also shows large annual increases in prosecutions and convictions over the last year for rape (11.8% and 11.2%, respectively) and other sexual offences (12.5% and 14.7%).

These offences, along with domestic abuse, now account for one fifth (19.3%) of the CPS's caseload - up from just 7.1% a decade ago.

More than a third of the 13,700 defendants who were convicted of sexual offences including rape in 2016/17 had abused children. For the first time the report also reveals the ages of rape victims. The data shows that more than half of victims (52%) were under 24 years old, 18% aged 14-17 years, and more than 9% under 13 years old.

Domestic abuse prosecutions have risen by 47% and convictions by 61% over the last decade. However this year's report does show a decrease in domestic abuse prosecutions and convictions compared with 2015/16, following a two-year fall in referrals of domestic abuse from the police to the CPS.

Cross-governmental work with the police is underway to address this fall. As more than 80% of VAWG prosecuted crimes are made up of domestic abuse offences this has contributed to an overall 4.5% fall in prosecutions (112,270, down from 117,568) and a 3.1% fall in convictions (84,565, down from 87,275) compared with 2015/16. Over the last decade, however, VAWG convictions have risen by more than 60%.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "Over the past 10 years the CPS has made significant strides in prosecuting VAWG offences. More offenders are being successfully prosecuted for sexual crimes than ever before, including those committed against children.

"We are also prosecuting an increasing number of defendants who have used the internet to target their victims. Our social media legal guidelines were updated last year and we are working with partners in the criminal justice system to ensure that training and guidance keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape.

"Tackling VAWG offences is a priority for the CPS. We will continue to work with victims groups to do everything possible to ensure that victims have the confidence to report their experiences and, where appropriate, pursue prosecutions in the knowledge that they will be supported throughout the process."

Key figures:

  • A 63% rise in VAWG convictions over the past 10 years, from 51,974 in 2007/8, to 84,565 in 2016/17
  • The conviction rate for VAWG prosecutions has also increased, from 69% in 2007/08 to 75.3% in 2016/17, the highest ever recorded
  • More than 13,700 defendants were convicted for overall sexual offences, including rape and child sexual abuse, a 14% rise since 2015/16

A breakdown of those defendants shows:

  • An 11.8% increase in completed rape prosecutions in 2016/17 compared to the previous year (5,190 up from 4,643), and an 11.2% rise in convictions (2,991 up from 2,689)
  • The highest ever volume (13,490) of completed sexual offence prosecutions, excluding rape, with a 12.5% rise in defendants compared to the previous year. The conviction rate is now 79.5% - the highest rate ever recorded
  • Child sexual abuse prosecutions have risen by 82% and convictions by 89% over the decade, and by 15.5% and 15.7% respectively over the last year, the highest volume ever

A decade on from the publication of the first VAWG report, this year's data also reflects the changing nature of VAWG crimes, with an increase in offending using the internet and social media.

In the past year the number of prosecutions for disclosing private sexual images without consent (so-called 'revenge pornography') has more than doubled from 206 to 465. There have also been more prosecutions using new offences, including a rise in rape pornography prosecutions (three to 24), and for possession of a paedophile manual (one to 14).

The report also shows that since the introduction of the offence of controlling and coercive behaviour, 309 offences have been charged and reached a first hearing. Many of these involved control of victims through the internet, tracking software and social media platforms. We have also prosecuted a higher proportion of domestic abuse-related offences of indecent or grossly offensive communications.

The annual VAWG report was first published in 2008 as part of a concerted strategy to improve the prosecution of these crimes, along with the support offered to victims within the criminal justice process.

The VAWG report provides an assessment of crimes that are committed primarily, but not exclusively, by men against women. This approach follows United Nations conventions which the UK government has ratified, and which inform the cross-government VAWG framework. However the report includes data on all perpetrators and victims, irrespective of gender. The CPS is determined to secure justice for all victims, and recently reaffirmed our commitment to male victims.

Trustee for Rape Crisis England and Wales, Lee Eggleston, said: "Rape Crisis welcomes the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)'s ongoing commitment to scrutiny and transparency, as reflected in the publishing of its annual Violence Against Women & Girls (VAWG) report.

"Increases in the volume of prosecutions and convictions for sexual offences, both in the last year and over the decade since the CPS began reporting, suggest a growing number of victims and survivors of adult and child sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault and all sexual violence are willing to report to the police and pursue criminal justice.

"This data also reflects steady improvements in the CPS' and wider criminal justice system's responses to sexual violence. Rape Crisis has welcomed the special measures introduced this year to support vulnerable or intimidated victims to give their best evidence, and the CPS drive to improve performance through revised guidance and training for prosecutors in rape cases."

Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "What is striking in these figures is how over the last ten years the prosecution of crimes of violence against women and girls has become a much bigger chunk of the CPS' work. These crimes are often hidden and are among the most difficult to get to court, but long-term work by the CPS on delving down into the barriers to getting justice seems to be having a real effect.

"We also commend the CPS for including reporting on their work to prosecute, trafficking, abuse of women in prostitution, forced marriage and 'extreme pornography' offences, alongside the domestic and sexual violence statistics, which recognises the connections between these crimes and women's inequality.

"We need to keep going in our determination to ensure justice for these crimes, as the complexity and spread of offences increases - including abuse committed online, and the increased recognition of coercive and controlling behaviour as the key to domestic violence. We urge the CPS to maintain and invest further in its dedicated strategy on prosecuting crimes of violence against women and girls. And we hope that police and others doing frontline work in the community can learn from the strategic approach at the CPS."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. The VAWG strategy covers a variety of offences, including domestic abuse (DA), stalking, harassment, rape, sexual offences, forced marriage, so-called 'honour-based' violence, female genital mutilation, child abuse, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, prostitution and pornography. Grouping these offences together recognises that most victims are female, although today's figures also include offending against male victims.
  2. For the latest in breaking news from the CPS Press Office follow @cpsuk on Twitter and visit our official News Brief - blog.cps.gov.uk
  3. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906. Out of Hours - 07590 617233