Annual Violence against Women and Girls report published
Latest figures on prosecutions involving Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) have been released today by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The VAWG report covers a broad range of offences including domestic abuse, rape, stalking and so-called honour-based abuse. Figures for 2018-19 show a 15.1 per cent fall in prosecutions and a 14.3 per cent drop in convictions across the domestic abuse, rape, and sexual offences caseload.
This reflects the 12.3 per cent fall in the number of investigations referred to the CPS from the police, as well as significant increases in the volume of digital data meaning some cases are taking longer to charge.
As today’s report shows a fall in the rate of rape-flagged charges, Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill has announced independent CPS watchdog - Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) - will hold a review of rape charging decisions to increase accountability and reassure victims of sexual offences.
Max Hill said: “Rape is an awful, sickening offence and I completely understand why the fall in charging rates is so concerning. Partners across the criminal justice system are coming together to look at how these cases are handled and the CPS is playing its part by opening up our charging decisions to further scrutiny.
“I have every confidence in the work of our dedicated prosecutors but it is important that the public has confidence too. I intend to implement any changes which are recommended if they improve our processes and enable the criminal justice system to deliver swifter, more effective justice.”
The report sets out a range of actions being taken to continue to improve how the CPS works on these challenging cases, and to increase transparency, including:
- HMCPSI will independently review rape charging decisions as part of a cross-government review into handling of cases;
- VAWG statistics, including rape charges, being published more regularly;
- A mandatory training programme for specialist rape prosecutors;
- A project to understand changing sexual behaviours and associated myths and stereotypes;
- New pre-trial therapy guidance.
Later this year, the CPS will move from annual to quarterly publication of VAWG data to better track changes in charging rates. A notable change in this year’s rape data is the increase in the number of administratively finalised cases. These are cases where the police do not respond to CPS requests for additional evidence or reasonable lines of enquiry within three months, which increased from 21.7 per cent to 28.6 per cent.
Plans to improve victims’ experiences of the criminal justice system are also in place to make sure people affected by sexual violence have the confidence to report it. Following extensive consultation with stakeholders, interim guidance on pre-trial therapy will be published shortly, ahead of a more comprehensive package expected later in the year.
The CPS is also undertaking a new project on myths and stereotypes surrounding sexual violence, acquaintance rape and digital dating in the context of changing sexual behaviours to help inform prosecutors in their decision-making.
Max Hill continued: “Like any crime, I want every victim of sexual violence to trust that when they come forward and report an offence, it will be fully investigated and, whenever the evidence supports, charged and fairly prosecuted.
“Bringing the right cases to court is in the interests of complainants, suspects and the wider public. A frank and full conversation about the reasons for the fall in referrals, charges, prosecutions and convictions is needed. For this we need partners from the across the criminal justice system, government and stakeholder groups to come together.”
The CPS has also completed further work on standing up for complainants’ privacy in courts. This includes refreshed legal guidance and mandatory training on Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 which restricts evidence or questions about previous sexual history by or on behalf of the accused, subject to exceptions and with the leave of the court. The training is also available to members of the external Bar.
The report demonstrates the breadth of CPS activity across the different VAWG strands and shows how the CPS is continuing to innovate against an increasingly challenging backdrop. For example, this year stalking prosecutions increased from 1,616 to 2,209 - an increase of 36.7% and the highest volume ever recorded. The CPS also secured the UK’s first conviction for female genital mutilation (FGM) and introduced a cross-system best practice framework for domestic abuse.
Notes to editors
- The CPS Annual VAWG report is available on this website. It includes data on a range of offences, including domestic abuse, 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.
- Data contained in the VAWG report in relation to domestic abuse, rape, forced marriage, so-called ‘honour-based’ abuse, child abuse and human trafficking cases is flag-based. Flags are applied to these cases at the pre-charge stage, where an allegation has been made, regardless of the final offence convicted. The flags will remain in place, even if the decision is taken to charge an offence other than that initially referred or where a charge is subsequently amended, to ensure application of the principles of relevant policies. The measurement of convictions by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the CPS are different and are used for different purposes. The differences are explained within the report.
- The CPS collects data for case management purposes in order to assist in the effective management of its prosecution functions. The CPS does not collect data which constitutes official statistics as defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. The official statistics relating to crime and policing are maintained by the Home Office and the official statistics relating to sentencing, criminal court proceedings, offenders brought to justice, the courts and the judiciary are maintained by the Ministry of Justice.
- The data on rape-flagged prosecutions shows that:
- The number of suspects referred by the police to the CPS for a charging decision decreased from 4,370 in 2017-18 to 3,375 in 2018-19 - a decrease of 22.8%.
- Of all legal pre-charge decisions completed (to charge, to take no further action or an out of court disposal outcome), the proportion charged decreased from 60.1% in 2017-18 to 48.2% in 2018-19 - a decrease of 11.9ppt.
- The average number of consultations per case increased from 1.98 in 2017-18 to 2.47 in 2018-19; for cases where the decision was to take no further action, it increased from 2.04 to 2.81.
- Completed prosecutions decreased from 4,517 in 2017-18 to 3,034 in 2018-19 - a decrease of 32.8%.
- The number of convictions decreased from 2,635 in 2017-18 to 1,925 in 2018-19 - a decrease of 26.9%.
- Factors which the CPS believes have contributed to the drop in rape charges include:
- a significant reduction in the number of referrals from the police to the CPS;
- an increase in the proportion administratively finalised (cases where the police do not respond to CPS requests for additional evidence or reasonable lines of enquiry within three months) increased from 21.7% to 28.6% - an increase of 6.9ppt.
- an increase in the volume of digital data which takes time to investigate, and so may result in cases taking longer to reach the CPS; and
- the number of consultations between the police and prosecutors pre-charge is increasing, with action plans put in place to set out what further work is needed for a charging decision to be made. This can result in charging decisions taking longer, but should mean stronger cases are taken forward.
- To improve rape prosecution performance, this year CPS has:
- produced a psychological evidence toolkit to help prosecutors understand the impact of a range of psychological conditions, including those linked with trauma.
- rolled out a mandatory training podcast for prosecutors and CPS advocates covering the cross-examination of complainants about their sexual history (S.41). It is also available for members of the external Bar.
- undertaken a project to increase our understanding of the impact of changes in sexual behaviour and digital evidence, especially in acquaintance rape prosecutions.
- trained all CPS RASSO advocates on the handling of vulnerable witnesses; we’re now providing this training for members of the external Bar.
- To further improve rape prosecution performance, CPS will:
- Continue to consult with stakeholders on draft revised operational practice guidance on pre-trial therapy which we hope to be able to publish later this year. Pending publication of the final guidance we intend to issue revised interim guidance. The guidance will enable all victims to receive the therapy they require in a timely fashion both to assist their recovery and to give their best evidence in criminal proceedings;
- Complete our project into the changing nature of sexual encounters, especially those linked to the use of digital technology, and identify how its findings can improve prosecutorial practice. We will develop new guidance for prosecutors and update our guidance on myths and stereotypes.
- Continue to update and develop guidance for prosecutors, including the youth RASSO course; appropriate use of Disclosure Management Documents in RASSO cases; and incorporate details of the experience of male victims to help challenge myths and stereotypes and provide details of support services available to them.
- Launch a toolkit for cases of same-sex violence.