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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

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CPS response to HMCPSI report on Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) units


Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have issued a report today [2 February 2016] which reviews the Crown Prosecution Service's handling of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO).

The CPS carried out an internal review of rape and serious sexual offence units only one month before this inspection's research was undertaken. The findings of this review, completed in December 2014, formed the basis of changes to the way the CPS handles rape and serious sexual offence cases.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions said: "The CPS has already made considerable progress since this inspection was carried out. Most of the recommendations within this report had already been identified by the CPS and were being addressed before the report was published. However, there is always more that we can do.

"The CPS has taken a leading role in the criminal justice system's response to rape, reversing a fall in the volume of rape referrals identified in 2012/13. This response included a Joint National Rape Action Plan with the police and other stakeholders, developing tools and skills for specialist prosecutors.

"Today, dedicated and specially trained teams handle all specialist rape and sexual offence cases. The CPS saw the highest ever numbers of these cases last year, with the highest ever volumes of charges, prosecutions and convictions. A number of initiatives were introduced last year to handle this exceptional increase, including the recruitment of at least 100 additional prosecutors.

"The report examined files from 2014 and noted that our policies were not always applied - performance in this area must improve. To address this, the CPS is already giving greater focus to evaluating whether our policies are happening in practice so that we can continue to improve performance across the country."

In addition, the CPS has worked hard with police and external stakeholders to ensure that the best possible service is provided to victims and witnesses and this has been a priority of the Director of Public Prosecutions from the beginning of her term at the CPS. The CPS worked closely with victim organisations on the 2014-15 National Rape Action Plan to address victim withdrawals, timeliness of cases as well as developing toolkits and training on consent and vulnerable victims.

In summary (taken from the CPS response to the HMCPSI RASSO Review):

  • The Report reaches many of the same conclusions that the CPS internal review reached in 2014 and we welcome the extent to which the Report endorses those findings and recommendations. The Director of Public Prosecutions leads a joint CPS/police national steering group which implements all the review actions. The group is already developing a national way of working with the police in rape prosecutions.
  • The actions from the internal review mirrored in the HMCPSI report have either been completed or work is underway on these recommendations. The CPS recognises, however, that the Report offers useful feedback, on aspects of its work which can be further improved, and confirmation of work done in this area.
  • The Report considers the structure of the CPS Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) units which were set up in 2013 and evaluates the quality of the casework based on a sample of cases finalised between April and September 2014. The fieldwork was undertaken between January and May 2015. It does not therefore take into account the changes which had recently been implemented, or were in the process of being implemented, at the time of the inspection nor any improvement activity undertaken by the CPS after the fieldwork but prior to publication of the Report.
  • The HMCPSI Report may therefore be better understood in the light of changes which were already underway but outside the scope of the inspection. A timeline has been prepared which outlines these changes.
  • A chronology of the work the CPS has undertaken/or is progressing, compared with a timeline of Inspection activity, is detailed in the CPS response to the HMCPSI report.


Notes to Editors

  1. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  2. For the latest in breaking news from the CPS Press Office follow @cpsuk and visit our official News Brief -
  3. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three national casework divisions: Specialist Fraud (formerly Central Fraud and Welfare, Rural & Health Divisions), Special Crime & Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime. CPS Direct is a 'virtual' 14th Area which provides charging decisions to all police forces and other investigators across England and Wales - it operates twenty-four hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
  4. At 31 March 2015 we employed a workforce of approximately 5,895 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2,255 prosecutors and 3,288 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:
  5. The CPS, together with police representatives (formerly 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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.