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Successful joint working with police on rape cases

We know too few people are seeing justice done and with police, we are working together as never before to change that. We have a shared ambition to drive up the number of rape cases going to court year on year. To do this, we have looked end to end at the management of these cases so we can improve every aspect of rape prosecution. 

You can read some examples of how better joint working between the police and CPS is already starting to make a difference for victims of rape.

Close working between the CPS and police secured the conviction of a man who exploited young children online.

Following an initial report, Cleveland Police’s specialist team found a wealth of evidence showing he’d contacted children in the Philippines to commission sex acts in exchange for money.

Working together from an early stage, police and prosecutors streamlined the investigation and identified the best lines of enquiry to build a strong case pre-charge.

The defendant denied the offences, claiming someone else had accessed his Skype account and dating apps, but these claims were dismantled using the digital evidence that had been processed.

He then made several attempts to delay proceedings, but the police and CPS were determined not to let these disrupt the case, which involved tracing a new witness and performing further reviews of the digital evidence.

Jim Hope, Senior District Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East said “This was a man who used his money and connections to prey on vulnerable children. He is a dangerous predator, who believed he was above the law, he was wrong.

“Such was the scale and reach of the offending that having early conversations to agree the parameters for the investigation were vital.

“The close working and joined-up approach between the prosecution team and Cleveland police meant that new assertions made by the defendant were methodically addressed and further evidence was provided to rebut each and every one of them, leading to his conviction."

Detective Chief Superintendent John Bent of Cleveland Police added: “This was an excellent example of team working and tenacity by both the investigation team and the CPS.

“Safeguarding the vulnerable is the highest priority for us and having such a dangerous individual incarcerated for such a length of time and subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order is a superb result by all involved.”

The defendant was found guilty of four counts of arranging the commission of child sex offences, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison and an indefinite sexual harm prevention order was imposed. His sentence was uplifted to 18 years after it was referred to the Court of Appeal as being Unduly Lenient.

BRINGING shared experience of prosecuting cases of controlling and coercive behaviour helped to see charges successfully brought in a south east rape case between a couple in a seven-year relationship.

The victim claimed she had been manipulated by her partner throughout their relationship and this had prevented her from leaving on a number of occasions. However, in May 2021, as she was getting ready to go to work, the suspect raped her, and she reported the crime to the police.

The defendant denied the offence, he accused the victim of lying and claimed the allegations were financially motivated as she wanted a share in his business which he was not prepared to give to her.

He said that no sexual activity had taken place that day and that otherwise any activity between them had been consensual.

Adele Kelly said: “This was an awful offence, but it was clear from the outset that there was more to it. The victim told police she was in a violent relationship where she had suffered not only assault but also controlling and coercive behaviour.

“We know that living in fear can affect your ability to control many aspects of your life, including giving sexual consent so we had to explore this. Working together with police meant from start to finish, the case took 13 months, bringing justice for the victim as quickly as possible in a complex case.”

Building the case

Officers from Sussex Police worked diligently and submitted a file to CPS for early advice in June within 42 days of the complaint being made.  

This was followed up within 14 days with a face-to-face meeting between the police investigator in the case and the reviewing lawyer. 

This discussion allowed the joint team to set a clear strategy from the outset, all agreed that controlling and coercive behaviour was a key element in the case. Gathering vital evidence that the victim was being manipulated by her partner was instrumental in proving lack of consent to sexual activity.

A major allegation was the fact the defendant would phone the victim up to 30 times a day and had made several derogatory posts about her on social media; this became a central part of the investigation.

Jonathan Hull from Sussex Police said: “Our early discussion in this case allowed both police and prosecutors the opportunity to bring their own experience and expertise into play. 

“We had to find evidence of the coercive behaviour and so we set clear parameters around phone analysis so we could build a strong case. 

“We take an offender-centric approach and focus on their offending – so we started with his phone to examine the contact with the victim and his past behaviour with previous partners.”

The investigation had to speed up as the defendant breached his bail conditions by repeatedly making contact with the victim, resulting in his arrest and remand into custody. This meant he was charged with two counts of rape, controlling and coercive behaviour, and stalking, 133 days after the victim first made her complaint. 

The defendant denied all charges throughout, save for the stalking which he pleaded to on the first day of the trial. During the course of the trial, and reflecting how the evidence came out, the Prosecution decided the controlling and coercive behaviour could not be pursued but was replaced by an offence of grievous bodily harm. Following trial he was convicted on all remaining counts. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and a 10-year restraining order was put in place.

Adele Kelly added: “Working together from an early stage meant we were clear about the evidence we needed for court and could focus our efforts.

“It was also rewarding to see the victim reflecting on how the offending had affected her as she read her victim impact statement in court.”

AUDIO from a pub CCTV camera – and strong joint working between police and CPS -helped charges to be brought in a rape case where the defendant claimed that sex had been consensual.

The woman had been drinking in a pub with friends but became so intoxicated, she had fallen asleep. At closing time, her friends left but the suspect, who worked behind the bar, offered to take her to the accommodation upstairs so she could sleep it off.  

The woman had no memory of the events of that night but later found herself partially clothed downstairs in the pub. She texted a friend to say she thought she might have been raped and the matter was reported to the police the following day.

The suspect was arrested, interviewed and confirmed that sexual activity had taken place but that it had been consensual.

Donna East said: “The CCTV from the pub played a vital part in this and by having a strong joint focus on the behaviour of the offender – not the victim – we have built a strong case for court.

“This was a classic case of a predatory suspect preying on a vulnerable female but our joint work had a real focus from the outset.”

Building the case

During an early strategy meeting, Police and CPS were able to view the CCTV footage seized from the pub together.

It showed good evidence of the woman’s level of intoxication, as she could be seen barely able to stand, and helped to paint a picture of her lack of capacity to consent which was part of building the case. However, on closer inspection, the team discovered that one of the CCTV cameras had sound and crucially, it had captured a conversation between the suspect and an acquaintance.

The man told the bar worker that he could not take the complainant upstairs because she was ‘battered’. He also made reference to a ‘charge’, which sounded like a warning against being prosecuted for his actions.

The suspect was heard to laugh and said the woman was an adult, he also asked the man if he had never had sex with a very drunk person.

Jonathan Hull from Sussex Police said: “The CCTV not only provided good evidence regarding the level of intoxication of the complainant, but the audio showed the defendant knew she was lacking in capacity to consent. How he reacted to the warning from the other man was key.

“CPS gave us focussed advice on specific issues around building the case to charge, including providing a transcript of the conversation between the suspect and the male. We also took a statement from the other man heard in the audio.

“We agreed to look into the background of the suspect – he had recently lost his pub job - and we knew the reason might assist us if we wanted to make a bad character application at court. 

“We set parameters around analysis of the woman’s phone so we only looked at material from that evening, the first complaint evidence, and finally toxicology.

“Our joint working allows us to focus our efforts, make the best use of our resources and even more importantly, we cut out as much intrusion to the victim as possible.”

A teenager reported to Cheshire Constabulary that she had been sexually assaulted by a man in his fifties. The victim was young and vulnerable, so the focus for police and the CPS was to resolve this case as swiftly as possible.

Police and the CPS had a strategic discussion about the necessary lines of enquiry when the police approached the CPS for early advice in January 2022. A concise set of actions was agreed to strengthen the case and these were completed swiftly with the defendant appearing in court in April 2022, where he pleaded guilty to sexual assault.

Jo Lazzari, Head of Rape and Serious Sexual Offences at CPS Mersey-Cheshire, said: “We’re always conscious of the impact rape and serious sexual offences have on the victims we work with, which is why our focus is on bringing cases to a conclusion as swiftly as we can.

“That was especially true here, where we knew the victim was vulnerable and wanted the case resolving quickly. With the police we made the decision to focus on a very concise set of actions that would strengthen the case and enable us to bring the prosecution before court in a very short space of time. 

“Our collaborative and dynamic approach resulted in a guilty plea, saving the victim the additional burden of waiting for, and going through, a trial. This is one of many examples of our specialist prosecutors working collaboratively with the police to deliver justice for victims of these horrendous crimes.” 

Detective Superintendent Myra Ball, RASSO lead, Cheshire Constabulary said “It is essential that detectives and lawyers truly understand how the timeliness of investigations and the decisions they make impact directly on victims.

“This case study highlights the benefits of JNAP, demonstrating how through effective case management, conversation and collaboration with CPS Mersey-Cheshire we can ensure that victims are at the forefront of our decisions and the relentless pursuit of perpetrators means justice is swift.”

Police and prosecutors collectively agreed supplementary information would not add to the prosecution of a predatory 74-year-old.  

A woman reported receiving a catalogue of abuse which started when she was just thirteen by a man in his seventies.

Given the extent of his offending, police and prosecutors agreed to charging him in custody because of the wider risk to the public.

As part of their investigation, police examined the defendant’s phone and discovered pornography. Prosecutors and police recognised this would bolster the case and considered adding time stamps to the imagery. 

However, as this would take a lot of time and wouldn’t impact the overall sentence, it was decided this additional work was unnecessary to bring the prosecution.

The defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of assaulting a child and was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison and given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for life.

Jo Lazzari, Head of Rape and Serious Sexual Offences at CPS Mersey-Cheshire, said: “The pornography police discovered showed the defendant’s predatory nature and was used as part of the case to demonstrate the real risk he posed to children. 

“The hard work put in by police and prosecutors meant the case was strong against him, resulting in a lengthy sentence and lifelong order to prevent him from harming other children. 

“We used our prosecution expertise to advise the police, preventing them from doing additional work that ultimately would not impact the prosecution or sentence.

“We work closely with our police colleagues, supporting each other as we strive to deliver justice for victims of these horrible offences.”

Sensitive handling of a case involving a victim of familial abuse ensured they felt supported throughout the complex process. 

When police received a report that a teenage girl was being groomed and sexually abused by a member of their family, an investigation began.

Despite the suspect denying the account and attempting to defame the victim, the investigation continued. 

The case was presented to the CPS who prosecuted the man in his fifties for 14 counts relating to grooming and child sexual abuse. 

Both the prosecutor and leading officer worked closely together in supporting the vulnerable victim, ensuring special measures were in place that allowed her to give evidence ahead of the trial and talking her through the process.

Charlotte Caulton-Scott, Head of Rape and Serious Sexual Offences in the East Midlands, said: “Cases like this show the complexities and long-term impact sexual abuse and controlling behaviour has, especially when the perpetrator is in a position of trust. 

“We recognise that these cases are always challenging and worked closely with the police to make sure we could put special measures in place and support the victim as well as we could. 

“She presented herself to Court with strength, integrity and conviction throughout and I’m glad that we were able to secure a positive result for her.

Detective Constable Georgina White, investigating officer from Leicestershire Police, said: “The victim in this case showed great strength in coming forward and throughout the investigation and court process. 

“Working closely with the prosecution team helped to ensure the defendant was convicted of a number of counts of sexual assault and the victim felt supported and updated by both the police and the CPS. 

“As part of Section 28 of the Children and Young Persons Act, we were able to spare the victim the trauma of going to court by allowing her to pre-record her evidence and cross-examination to be shown to the jury during the trial.

“Following the lengthy sentence her abuser received, which reflected the gravity of his offending, she can now hopefully start to move forward with her life.”

Clear actions to strengthen the case result in a conviction for attempted rape and sexual assault.

Three people were targeted at random by the defendant, one was subject to attempted rape and sexual assault, the other two were victims of exposure.

When the defendant accepted the two counts of exposure but denied the other offences, police and prosecutors had further discussions to establish what was needed to strengthen the case.

Identity would be key, so the prosecutor worked with police to secure the forensic enquiries that would evidence the defendant’s offending.

This evidence was presented at Court where he was found guilty of attempted rape and sexual assault and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Charlotte Caulton-Scott, Head of Rape and Serious Sexual Offences in the East Midlands, said: “In this case we spotted something that could be a weakness and worked jointly with colleagues in the police to make sure the case was really strong.

“We were able to do this because we had almost daily chats conversations with our counterparts, which shows the impact that working so closely has when we’re prosecuting serious sexual offences. 

“We understand how traumatic these offences are and made sure the victims were supported throughout the process which saw the perpetrator convicted and jailed for a substantial amount of time.”

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