CPS Wessex prosecutes near 1000 more 'violence against women and girls' cases in 2014-15

25/06/2015

"Prosecuting 972 cases more than the previous year demonstrates how our Area and our staff are committed to bring justice for victims of these despicable crimes," said Kate Brown, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Wessex (Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and Wessex).

Following the publication of the CPS Violence Against Women and Girls Report 2014-15, Ms Brown said: These crimes are pernicious, insidious and they have a long lasting effects on victims. They can present a real challenge to prosecute as often these offences are not recent, victims have been traumatised by these crimes and the court process can be daunting . In number of cases it ones word against the others however all of these circumstances never deter our staff to bring a prosecution when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest.

"In domestic abuse cases often victims for understandable reasons express that they no longer wish to support a prosecution. The work that we have done over the years to understand victims issues and also the fact that we had a specialist lawyer reviewing all domestic abuse cases in the magistrates courts has certainly contributed in 867 more prosecutions than the previous year. The use of Body Worn Video used by Hampshire Police officers has been crucial in showing the demeanour of offenders at the time the abuse occurred, which can often contrast with the respectable image they have prepared before the court.

"Since we established our Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit in 2011 we have seen the real benefits of having a dedicated team of lawyers, paralegal and administrative staff who volunteered to deal only with those types of cases. We have prosecuted more than 100  rape and sexual offences case in this unit for the year 2014-2015.

"There will never be a time for complacency and we relentlessly look at measures on how to improve the quality of our prosecutions and our service to victims with our criminal justice system colleagues.

"Our RASSO Unit has been working very closely with each police force in Wessex to ensure that police officers have access to early investigative advice from prosecutors  to help build strong cases. We are also assisting the police to quality assess their decisions not to prosecute and we have recently provided further guidance and training on the issue of consent. 

"Our decisions not to charge can also be reviewed under the Victims Right to Review Scheme. Eight rape decisions not to charge as well as six for sexual offences cases that can include child abuse were independently reviewed and the outcome of each of these reviews was that the original decision was right.

"Dr Nina Burrowes, Research Psychologist specialised in the psychology of sexual abuse and who worked with convicted sex offenders provided training in November on consent to lawyers from our RASSO unit as well as our court prosecutors.

"We also continue to work with our VAWG scrutiny panel made of members of the public who review finalised cases and indicates areas of improvement.

"I hope that with these measures and our continuous improvement victims of crimes will be reassured that Violence Against Women and Girls remains a priority for the CPS."

Dr Jacki Tapley, Associate Head of the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies, Portsmouth University, and Chair of CPS Wessex Violence against Women and Girls Scrutiny Panel said:

"The CPS Wessex Violence Against Women and Girls Scrutiny Panel has scrutinised 14 finalised case files relating to prosecutions for violence against women and girls crimes during the last three meetings.

The panel has provided feedback highlighting areas of good practice and has also identified areas where further improvements are required. These have included practices in relation to special measures, decisions to adjourn, communicating with victims, and the provision of witness statements to witnesses prior to trial. In addition, one panel member, whose agency was supporting a victim at court, was able to provide positive feedback on a prosecutor's handling of a rape case trial. They were particularly impressed by the way the prosecutor dealt with the issues of consent and the prevalent myths and stereotypes, and reiterated these issues throughout the case. This demonstrates a clearer knowledge and understanding regarding the nature of these offences and the impact on the victims."

 

Notes to editors

Why the conviction rate in Hampshire is the worst of the country?

The conviction rate for the year 2014/2015 did fall by about 10%, which was very worrying; this was despite the work of our RASSO Team. Our  local figures, which differs slightly that  the ones from the national report but overall give the same number of prosecutions Wessex, showed that we had 59 successful cases and 88 unsuccessful in Hampshire  in the 88 cases that were unsuccessful we lost 67 cases because of jurys acquittal. Rape is very complex and is ones word against the other, the issue of content is often disputed especially if the complainant and the suspect had consumed alcohol, we have also seen more cases involving non-recent allegations, which are always difficult to prove to a jury. The complainant in these types of cases had to live a number of years with what happened to them, they often are ashamed, feel guilty and are often vulnerable.  The suspect can be someone who has built up an image of respectability and in a court room we know that myths and prejudices that exist around rape outside a court room are also present inside a court room.
Our RASSO lawyers have received training on consent and also have done close works with police colleagues and we are pleased to see that the conviction rate for the first quarter of our financial year has increased. We are dedicated to bring more prosecutions and increase our conviction rate.