CPS announces five year blueprint for prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO)

|News, Sexual offences

An ambitious package of measures to make sure offenders of sexual violence are brought to justice and victims of these devastating crimes are properly supported has been published by the CPS today.

The five-year blueprint, named RASSO 2025, will help CPS to understand and reduce the gap between reported cases of sexual violence and those which come to court. It will also drive improvements in case handling across the justice system by better partnership working to remove any barriers to justice. Striking the balance between the needs and rights of victims and those of suspects is paramount to RASSO 2025, so all parties can have confidence that they will be treated fairly.

Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions said: “Rape and serious sexual offences are abhorrent crimes which can have a profound and lasting impact. It is clear that more needs to be done both to encourage victims to come forward with confidence, and to support them through the criminal justice process so the gap between reports of rape and cases that reach the courts can be closed.

“Progress on this is vital and achievable with a long-term and concerted effort and investment from all parts of the criminal justice system. I am determined that the CPS will play its part in driving that change, working with the police to build strong cases from the outset, and accelerate the time taken to bring them to court. Our commitment is that all casework decisions are taken fairly, impartially and with integrity and help to secure justice for victims, witnesses, defendants and the public.”

The strategy includes a raft of commitments, including:

  • a wide-ranging joint action plan with the police to improve collaborative working and strengthen case strategies;
  • clear, proportionate legal advice to the police at the early stages of an investigation, to help focus on reasonable lines of enquiry;
  • fully resourcing specialist RASSO units with dedicated, highly trained prosecutors;
  • ongoing training and the development of new guidance to reflect changes in the law and to aid understanding of the complexities of rape;
  • a better quality of communications with victims and complainants, being sensitive to the needs of those who are particularly vulnerable;
  • harnessing the opportunities of technology to support effective prosecutions, while balancing the rights of a fair trial with the right to privacy; and
  • working constructively with partners across Government, the criminal justice system, and the third sector on the effective and efficient delivery of justice.

The plan is launched as the latest CPS performance figures, published today, show progress over three successive quarters to reverse the fall in rape charges.

Alongside the RASSO 2025 strategy, the CPS is also publishing two further documents that will assist specialist RASSO prosecutors.

Draft guidance on pre-trial therapy. The guidelines, which are out for consultation, make clear that no one should be prevented from accessing therapy. The guidelines, which have already been the subject of extensive consultation with stakeholders and reflect the views of experts, will be finalised later this year.

A new toolkit for prosecutors considering cases of same-sex sexual violence and sexual violence involving a transgender complainant or defendant has been developed. This explores issues including specific vulnerabilities, relevant myths and stereotypes, power dynamics within relationships and victim support considerations.

Max Hill QC continued: “We fully support the cross-Government review into how rape and sexual offences are handled, and the CPS is committed to making progress while the Government continues its end-to-end work. Excellent work is already going on around the country as local CPS teams join forces with police colleagues and stakeholders to trial new ways of working to improve casework and better support victims. RASSO 2025 is an ambitious plan to drive the improvements we all want to see.”

A number of CPS Areas are holding regular sessions to discuss case strategies with police colleagues, build strong cases from the outset and to encourage strong working relationships. Other areas are teaming up with court staff and stakeholders to share best practice and improve the victim experience of the justice process.

The CPS has invested heavily in RASSO training for prosecutors, advocates and managers, including a module on the impact of rape and a revised induction course for new starters. New educational materials for RASSO teams on the changing nature of sexual behaviour is being developed and will be published shortly.

In addition, the CPS is focusing on improving communications with people involved in RASSO cases, to help them understand the justice process, including the creation of a digital “walk through” of a RASSO case so they know what to expect and can prepare.

Notes to editors

  • The latest quarterly performance data, including data for rape, domestic abuse, and hate crime offences, is published on our website
  • RASSO 2025 is available on our website (from 09:30)
  • There is more information about how we prosecute rape on the website
  • You can read case studies of how we prosecute complex rape cases on our site
  • Following a HMCPSI inspection report published in December last year, CPS is working to address each recommendation and will be measuring progress carefully.
  • The joint action plan with the police is expected to be consulted on with stakeholders this autumn and launched early next year.

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