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Max Hill QC, DPP, on the the judgment in the judicial review of the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences

|News, Sexual offences

Today, Monday 15 March, Lord Burnett dismissed the application for Judicial Review from the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition against the CPS.

In his full response to today’s judgment, the Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill QC said:

“The devastating impact and the scale of violence against women and girls is dominating national debate. Women have bravely shared their experiences to demand change. All of us must look hard at what more we can do to can create a society where everyone feels safe, and to remove any barriers to justice.

“Rape in particular is an abhorrent crime and one of the most complex to prosecute. The impact on victims is shattering and lasting, and it has long been recognised that all parts of the criminal justice system must give real and ongoing focus to the issue. Every victim must feel able to come forward with confidence that their complaint will be fully investigated and, where the evidence supports, charged and prosecuted.

“The Court of Appeal has today handed down its judgment following detailed consideration of how the CPS prosecutes rape. They have dismissed the case, confirming that the CPS was neither irrational nor unlawful in its approach to updating guidance for prosecutors, and that there was no change of approach in the way the CPS prosecutes rape cases. 

“For more than a decade, the CPS has prioritised rape and sexual offences. The challenges in prosecuting these crimes are well known, and it is essential that our guidance and training is subject to ongoing review so that our prosecutors are supported in their duty to make sure that the right person is prosecuted for the right offence.

“Every rape case that comes to the CPS is considered by a highly trained lawyer in one of our specialist Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) teams, who has access to the latest information needed to prosecute these offences.

“The landscape is continually evolving, and our response must adapt to reflect external factors such as ever-growing volumes of digital evidence. We must respond to changes in the law as well as changing behaviours, the growing understanding of the impact of trauma, evolving myths and stereotypes and our increasingly digital society.

“However, the legal test that guides every charging decision has not changed. The principles of the merits-based approach are enshrined in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, which guides every charging decision. Independent inspectors have found no evidence of a risk-averse approach and have reported a clear improvement in the quality of our legal decision-making in rape cases.

“Today’s outcome means we can now give our full focus to the extensive programme of work underway to address the gap between reported rapes and cases going to court. We must now rebuild public confidence that every allegation of rape or sexual assault will be fully investigated by the police and will go before the courts whenever the legal test is met.

“I share the deep public concern that, while the number of rape allegations has increased significantly in recent years, the number going to court has fallen. The CPS is actively involved in the cross-Government review which has been working for almost two years to understand and address the reasons behind the trend. While that work continues, it is clear no single factor has led to the drop in cases, and meaningful change will need a system-wide approach. The findings of that review are due to be published this spring.

“Our 2025 rape and serious sexual offences strategy is a comprehensive programme of work designed to narrow the gap between reported rapes and cases going to court.

“In January, we published our blueprint to drive even closer working between the police and prosecutors to tackle this gap head on. The Joint National Action Plan between the CPS and National Police Chiefs’ Council sets out a wide-ranging plan for greater collaboration to improve the response to RASSO cases. It is designed to ensure victims have confidence in the criminal justice system and receive the best possible support and care whilst investigations and prosecutions take place.”

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