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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

Support for Victims and Witnesses

Being a victim or a witness to a crime is not easy, but, with your help, we work hard to bring offenders to justice. Throughout the justice process we will support you and treat you with dignity.

The aim of witness care units is to provide a single point of contact for Victims and Witnesses, minimising the stress of attending court and keeping  victims and witnesses up to date with any news in a way that is convenient to them.

Witnesses are essential to successful prosecutions and we are committed to making the process as straightforward as we can.

Read the fact sheet about witness care units

Find out more about being a witness

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Highest ever numbers of "violence against women" cases being prosecuted and convicted in England and Wales


The CPS has seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of cases concerning Violence Against Women and Girls (VaWG) - including rape, domestic abuse and sexual abuse. This year, more cases are being referred from the police, charged, prosecuted and convicted than ever before. In 2014/15, 107,104 of these crimes were prosecuted, an increase of more than 16,000 from last year (18.3%) and the highest ever in CPS records. Likewise, the numbers of those convicted rose by over 11,000 (16.9%) to its highest level ever. Child sexual abuse convictions also rose by 19%.

This comes at a time when an increasing number of complex and non-recent cases are being brought through the criminal justice system, and significant work has been undertaken to recognise and tackle the key difficulties which affect these cases. This includes the implementation of a National Rape Action Plan, the publishing of toolkits for prosecutors and advocates on the issues of consent and offender tactics, and guidance for dealing with vulnerable victims.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions said, "This is really good news for the victims of these dreadful crimes and is also testament to the hard work we have done recently to encourage victims to come forward, to work better with the police and ensure specially trained prosecutors bring the right cases to court. Where cases meet the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we will not shy away from taking cases forward, even when they are difficult and complex.

"There has been an 18% rise in domestic abuse prosecutions, reaching over 90,000, which is in no small part due to increased public awareness in reporting such cases, as well as the dialogue surrounding new laws involving coercion and control which will be introduced later in the financial year. We are responding to these changes quickly, and have published new guidance for prosecutors on handling cases of domestic abuse.

"Of course, this additional volume of VaWG work brings challenges for prosecutors not only in terms of numbers, but the type of cases we are seeing - prosecutors across England and Wales are telling me that we are seeing more non-recent child sexual abuse cases and more of the particularly complex rape cases coming forward. While there has been a slight drop in the rape conviction rate, we are bringing the right, although often the more difficult, cases to court as they are left to the jury to decide.

"Anyone who is a victim of these crimes should feel encouraged by this news and confident that they will be believed when reporting these crimes."

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women's Aid, said: "Today's annual Violence Against Women and Girls report from the Crown Prosecution Service demonstrates that significant progress has been made in taking more cases of domestic violence through the criminal justice system. This is positive. Nearly 18% more defendants for domestic abuse cases are being sanctioned for their crimes, sending a clear message that domestic violence will not be tolerated. This progress must continue until we have a system where women who experience domestic violence have exactly the same level of confidence as victims of other crimes, that they are heard and believed, the system works for them and protects their human right to live free from violence."

Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales, said: "Rape Crisis welcomes the Crown Prosecution Service's annual Violence Against Women and Girls report. It's clear that some progress has been made towards improving responses to this broad range of devastating crimes. At the same time, the report highlights that we still have some distance to travel before all survivors of sexual violence and violence against women and girls receive the justice they want and deserve and that there is no room for complacency. We particularly welcome the recognition of inclusion of 'non-recent' offences in this year's report; this recognition is vital to ensuring the needs and rights of adult survivors of child sexual abuse are met and upheld."

Diana Barran, Chief Executive of SafeLives, said: "SafeLives is encouraged to see the increase in domestic abuse charging and convictions to an all-time high level, and the recognition of the valuable role of Idvas in supporting victims who are involved in the court process. We are also pleased to see an increase in the number of convictions for the new offence of stalking, which goes some way to recognising the patterns of abuse that victims suffer - albeit from a very low base. Much work remains to be done to be sure that broader charging decisions reflect the extent of the violence and abuse that victims experience."

Additional information in the report:

  • There was the highest volume ever of all VAWG police referrals, charged defendants, prosecutions and convictions in 2014/15
  • Over 11,000 more defendants convicted - a 16.9% increase since 2013-14 to 78,773
  • Highest conviction volumes ever of domestic abuse (68,601), rape (2,581), sexual offences (7,591), honour-based violence (129) and child abuse (7,469)
  • Over 10,000 more defendants convicted for domestic abuse, a rise just under 18% from the previous year
  • Highest ever level of defendants convicted for child sexual abuse - a 19% rise
  • Rise of 15% in stalking and harassment prosecutions to over 12,000 and of these, 1,103 prosecutions were commenced under the new stalking offences
  • Rape conviction rate fell to 56.9% although there was a rise in conviction volumes for rape of 9.9%  
Domestic Abuse:

In December 2014 the Director of Public Prosecutions announced new guidance for prosecutors on handling cases of domestic abuse. These refer prosecutors to the range of ways in which abusers can control and coerce their victims through committing clear offences without necessarily carrying out physical assault, preparing them for new laws coming in later this year. The guidance also expands on the issues relating to specific groups of people including, for the first time, enhanced guidance on issues relating to children of adult victims, teenagers in abusive relationships and teenagers in gangs. This also reflects the increasing caseload of domestic abuse cases, and in the last ten years, conviction volumes have risen 131% and are now at the highest level ever of 68,601. In fact, domestic abuse cases now account for 14.1% of all court prosecutions, and the volume of prosecutions rose this year to the highest level ever of 92,779.


More rape cases are being referred by the police, with prosecutions and convictions reaching the highest volume ever. We have worked with the police and done a huge amount in the last year on rape. This includes the Rape Action Plan, the launch of toolkits on consent and offender tactics, advocacy training and monitoring. 2014/15 saw the highest volume of convictions ever, however the conviction rate decreased slightly to 56.9%. Work continues to improve our performance on rape, and this year we have clarified guidance on early investigative advice and charging for police and prosecutors, and published toolkits on vulnerable VAWG victims. Looking ahead, a rape training programme has been developed for implementation in 2015/16 and we are working together with the police to determine what further lessons can be learned following the publication of Dame Elish Angiolini's independent review into the investigation and prosecution of rape in London.

Child abuse:

We have seen the highest number of child abuse referrals, charges, prosecutions and convictions ever in the past year. This reflects the CPS work on child sexual abuse as part of a wider effort across Government to respond to sexual violence against children. A range of new legislation related to grooming and sexual exploitation of children was introduced, and all CPS child sexual abuse specialists have been trained to implement the legal guidance.

Violence Against Women and Girls offences also includes stalking and harassment, forced marriage, honour based violence, FGM, indecent images offences, pornography offences, trafficking and prostitution offences. It is important to note that men and boys can also be victims of these offences and our policies ensure they have the same access to the support that we offer all victims of these abhorrent crimes.


Notes to Editors

  1. You can download the full report from the CPS website (PDF document, approx 1.8mb) 
  2. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  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 2014 we employed a workforce of approximately 6237 staff (full time equivalent), including around 2226 prosecutors and 3629 caseworkers and administrators. Further information can be found on our website:
  5. 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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.