How I’m going to improve the quality of rape prosecutions in Hampshire and the Isle Of Wight

16/12/2010

Nick Hawkins explains how the CPS is going to improve the quality of rape prosecutions in Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

By Nick Hawkins, Chief Crown Prosecutor of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

The head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has just announced a series of measures to boost the quality of rape prosecutions across England and Wales. It's my job, as head of the CPS in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to make sure that a consistent and first class service is delivered locally.

Rape is one of the cruellest and most degrading offences, and prosecuting it can be difficult.  We are now redoubling our efforts to achieve the highest standards across the country. I hope the public in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will have confidence that rape victims in this area will be treated sensitively and that their attackers will be prosecuted robustly.

First and foremost, I want you all to know that budget cuts will not affect the quality that you should expect from our specialist rape prosecutors. Those prosecutors will still be given the time and training to ensure they are the very best they can be. And I will ensure that any decisions they make on whether or not to prosecute are based on the merits of the evidence. There can be no room for decisions based on the assumption that a jury might hold certain misconceptions or be intolerant (examples include what the complainant might have been wearing, or what he or she may have had to drink when the alleged attack took place).

I will also be closely monitoring the communication between my lawyers and complainants of rape and sexual offences. They need to ensure they are speaking in language that everyone can understand, and in language that is sensitive to the recipient. Those found not to meet our high standards will be specifically shown how to do so by their manager.

In the New Year, the CPS will be consulting with charities and organisations with expertise on sexual offences and other violent crimes, as to how and when we charge individuals with the serious offence of perverting the course of justice, particularly when a rape complainant is suspected of falsely retracting his or her allegation.

Prosecuting a rape complainant for perverting the course of justice is unusual, and if such a case is being considered in this Area, the Director of Public Prosecutions has now asked that his approval is sought before any decision to prosecute is made.

Let me reassure you, I have a strong team of high calibre prosecutors. What I am doing is to make the team even better. These measures are just the first in a long-term drive to improve the quality of rape prosecutions, so that you can feel confident that the Crown Prosecution Service is determined to deal properly with the devastating offence of rape.

End.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. For further information contact Carrie Sanderson, Group Equality and Diversity and Community Engagement Manager on 02380 673809

2. The DPP has published his long term vision for the prosecution service and its role within the wider criminal justice system. It includes modernising the service and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of criminal justice - read "The Public Prosecution Service: Setting the Standard" at www.cps.gov.uk/pps

3. 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 Service. 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.

4. 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.  The Media Protocol is published on our website.