Key messages from 2016 Domestic Abuse and Rape Panel meetings

Introduction

The effects of domestic abuse and rape can stay with a victim and those closest to them for many years after the incident.

Rape and serious sexual offences make up 25% of the overall CPS caseload. These are some of the most complex and serious offences we prosecute. All lawyers who are involved in these cases have received specialist training and the CPS as a whole is committed to tackling these abhorrent crimes.

Our assurances to victims of domestic abuse and rape

We are ensuring that the charges are sufficient to reflect the kind of behaviour of the defendant.

As part of our duty of continuous review, we will consider what support may assist victims to give evidence and ask the court to allow appropriate support to be put in place.

The police will refer victims to an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA), Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) or other appropriate specialist support.

North West convictions

Domestic violence convictions for October 2016:

  • Lancashire - 157 cases, conviction rate 80.9%
  • Greater Manchester - 406 cases, conviction rate 81.5%
  • Cumbria - 50 cases, conviction rate 89.3%

The conviction rate for rape offences is currently 65.5%. The North West currently has the third highest conviction rate for rape offences nationally.

With regard to other sexual offences, the conviction rate is currently 82.3%.

If you are a victim and need to attend court

If you do have to go to court, there is support available including:

  • A court visit ahead of the trial so you can see what it looks like before you give your evidence
  • A CPS representative meeting with you on the day of the trial, before you give evidence. They will also:
  • explain the procedures and what will happen in court, and
  • provide assistance about giving your evidence by, for example, showing you a copy of your statement so you can refresh your memory
  • They will also explain cross-examination and any trial issues.

You will also be given the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement. This is your opportunity to explain how what has happened has affected you and your way of life. The court will look at this statement before a guilty person is sentenced and you will be asked whether you want to read this statement to the court.

In addition, in many cases we are able to arrange for the video recording of your evidence to be played in court as your main evidence. We can also ask the court for other types of support such as giving your evidence from behind a screen.

Assistance at Court

Our Speaking to Witnesses at Court guidance was launched in the North West area in June 2016. The aim of the guidance is to ensure witnesses are properly assisted at or before court and know more about what to expect, to ensure they give their best evidence at the trial.

The result from our recent national survey shows that 95% of witnesses are satisfied with the information and support they received from the CPS at court. In total 939 people completed the survey, which was carried out with the help of the Witness Service in all courts across England and Wales in November 2016.

Of those witnesses who completed the survey and were cross-examined by the defence (470), almost 9 out of 10 (89.5%) felt they were given enough information or support by the CPS to prepare them for the experience. One witness at Portsmouth Crown Court explained: "It was easier than I thought because I was prepared by CPS staff."