Increase in conviction rate for Violence Against Women and Girls prosecutions for CPS Wessex

11/07/2013

“Violence against women and girls are cruel and destructive crimes and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will prosecute these cases when there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest”, said Kate Brown, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wessex, following the publication of the CPS Violence Against Women and Girls Report 2012 – 2013.

Ms Brown said: "During 2012-2013 we have seen the number of successful outcomes for its prosecutions for Violence Against Women and Girls go up from 70% for the year 2011-2012 to 73%. This includes prosecutions for rape, sexual offences and domestic violence.

"The report also shows that during 2012-2013 66% of defendants pleaded guilty to these crimes compared to 61% the previous year. This means fewer victims had to attend court and give evidence. 

"This is a positive result and reflects the hard work and commitment shown by staff and our partners. 

"The success of the CPS Wessex Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit established in 2011 has played a part in increasing the number of convictions for these offences, and has contributed to the CPS commitment nationally to roll out specialist units in all Areas. The unit has a dedicated team of specialist lawyers and staff who have all volunteered to only work on these types of crimes.

"Over the course of the year we have have worked with the Police in all the police forces across Wessex. In Hampshire we have worked to develop an enhanced measures protocol for high risk victims. This protocol introduces enhanced criminal justice measures in high risk cases to make sure that more is done now, to prevent repeat victims.

"We have worked with Her Majestys Courts and Tribunal Service, Hampshire Constabulary and the voluntary sector to pilot the use of Conditional Cautions in West Hampshire. The pilot aims to assess whether early intervention on a short awareness course reduces re-offending.

"Our Scrutiny and Involvement Panels made up of members of the community and police forces across Wessex scrutinise finalised domestic violence prosecutions to see how along with the police we can improve the service and support to victims and witnesses of these crimes.

"The panels commended us in particular on the handling of an attempted murder case in Wiltshire where the defendant pleaded guilty. The panel were particularly impressed with the support provided to a five year old girl through video interviews, who on arrival of the police was found sat on the stairs crying and saying that daddy stabbed mummy on the toilet.

"The panels also identified a number of areas of good practice including in Dorset the use of special measures to help victims give their best evidence and good clear communication with victims explaining complex legal decisions made in cases, and providing local details of refuges and support agencies.

"I hope the publication of this report encourages more victims to come forward and report these horrific crimes. I would like to assure victims that we will work very closely with the police to build the best possible case to take to court and to determine what types of special measures can be applied in court". 

Dr Jacki Tapley, Portsmouth University and Independent Facilitator VAWAG Panel said: "The continuing improvement in performance demonstrated in this report reflects the commitment of the CPS to prosecute those who commit violence against women and girls in all of its forms, realised through strong leadership and the dedication of CPS caseworkers and staff. As the Facilitator of the VAWG scrutiny panel, I continue to be encouraged by the transparency afforded to the Panel members by the CPS when scrutinising cases, and the co-operation of the other relevant agencies. Of particular importance has been the greater understanding and awareness of the nature of abuse suffered by women and girls, and the willingness of the CPS to 'go that extra mile' to ensure the successful prosecution of perpetrators, reflected in the good practices we see in the cases scrutinised, but also in the subsequent actions taken by the CPS when feedback is given by Panel members on how professional practices can be improved further".

Councillor Molly Rennie, West Dorset District Council said: "It is good news to hear of all the work undertaken by CPS and partners helping to bring about higher conviction rates in Crimes Against Women, this helps to build confidence for women coming forward to report crimes.

"As a member of a CPS Hate Crime Panel and now the panel looking into Violence against Women it is obvious the commitment of partners working with the CPS is bringing about great changes in good practice and greater understanding of the wider issues women face when they come forward to report a crime against themselves then have to face the system.

"I have welcomed the opportunity to be a critical friend and in a small way bring about changes to help raise awareness of the issues facing Women who have violence committed against themselves invariably by people who they know and trusted".