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Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the law, much of which dated back to 1956.

The main provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Rape is widened to include oral penetration
  • Significant changes to the issue of consent
  • Specific offences relating to children under 13, 16 and 18
  • Offences to protect vulnerable persons with a mental disorder
  • Other miscellaneous offences
  • Strengthening the notification requirements and providing new civil preventative orders

Find out more about how we prosecute sexual offences

Prosecuting Violent Crime

Violent crime covers a wide range of offences including:

These crimes are extremely rare, they account for only about 1% of all crime. Yet they cause significant harm, both to individual victims and their families in terms of physical injury and psychological trauma, and to society more widely in terms of fear. We are committed to prosecuting violent crimes efficiently and effectively.

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Rape and domestic violence conviction rates rise


Conviction rates for rape and domestic violence offences prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have increased to 58 per cent and 69 per cent respectively, according to a report published today.

The CPS Violence against Women Crime Report, its first annual report detailing its performance across a range of violent crimes perpetrated primarily by men against women, also shows an increase in the number of cases that the CPS has prosecuted.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said:

"This report shows real improvements made by the CPS on tackling crimes where women are subjected to male violence. The CPS is increasingly likely to charge and secure a conviction against perpetrators of rape and domestic violence. I hope these results encourage victims of these particularly vile crimes to come forward."

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, said:

"The findings of this report are especially significant, not least because they demonstrate a shift in attitude towards how violent acts against women are perceived by society and even the victims themselves.

"It also acknowledges that there has been a real improvement in how the CPS works with victims and witnesses, both at a national and local level, to understand their needs, address the issues involved and to improve upon the level of support and care offered."

Between 2006-7 and 2007-8, rape convictions increased from 55 to 58 per cent while the number of cases prosecuted rose from 1,963 to 2,220. Over the same period, domestic violence convictions rose from 65 to 69 per cent and the number of cases prosecuted rose from 36,957 to 47,115.

The CPS published the Government's first Violence against Women strategy in April this year, establishing a coordinated framework for prosecutors when dealing with all forms of violence against women. In practice this could mean that in a case of human trafficking, CPS lawyers would look to see if the victim had been forced into prostitution, whether she was a victim of rape and whether she was in a relationship with her trafficker and may have suffered domestic violence.

Overall, across violence against women offences charging increased from 59 to 64 per cent, convictions increased from 65 to 69 per cent and guilty pleas increased from 56 to 60 per cent. In sexual offences excluding rape convictions saw a 68 to 74 per cent hike.


  1. There is no specific statutory offence of domestic violence. It is a general term to describe a range of behaviour often used by one person to control and dominate another with whom they have, or have had, a close or family relationship. It is often a series of abusive incidents, whether physical or not, that has a cumulative effect on the victim.
  2. The crimes included here have been grouped under a 'Violence against Women' umbrella because of their profile - they cover crimes primarily, but not exclusively, perpetrated by men against women, within a pattern of power and control - which is why not all victims are female.
  3. There is little data on the violence against women strands aside from for rape, domestic violence and sexual offenders as the remaining strands have not yet been monitored consistently on the CPS's case management system to ensure that any figures are robust enough for publication.
  4. For the first time, the report covers a range of violence against women strands including domestic violence, forced marriage, so-called 'honour' crimes, female genital mutilation, rape and sexual offences, human trafficking, prostitution, child abuse, and offences relating to pornography.
  5. Almost 85 per cent of violence against women crimes are domestic violence; 5 per cent are rape and 11 per cent sexual offences. Over 144,000 defendants were prosecuted for violence against women offences in the two years ending in March 2008
  6. Ninety four percent of defendants were men in 2007-08 (which was one percent less than in 2006-07). Eighty six percent of victims were women in 2007-08 (which was one per cent more than in 2006-07)
  7. In 2007, for the second year running, the CPS scored the highest mark across all Government Departments in the annual End Violence Against Women independent analysis of Government departmental initiatives, "Making the Grade"
  8. The conviction rates in this report are calculated by the number of cases charged by the CPS, rather than cases reported.
  9. The Crown Prosecution Service is the independent authority responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales. It is responsible for:
    1. Advising the police and reviewing the evidence on cases for possible prosecution
    2. Deciding the charge where the decision is to prosecute
    3. Preparing cases for court
    4. Presenting cases at court
  10. The CPS consists of 42 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales. The CPS employs around 8,400 people and prosecuted 1,091,250 cases with an overall conviction rate of 85.1% in 2007-2008. Further information can be found on our website:
  11. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests.
  12. 12. For further information please contact the CPS Press Office, 020 710 6091. Out of hours pager: 07699 781926