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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

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Updated CPS-Police Rape Protocol launched as DPP warns of rising caseloads


A joint protocol, created and implemented by the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police has been launched today [Thursday 8 January 2015], setting out how to deal with all rape cases from the initial complaint to after the verdict in a trial.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders and Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt have written to all Chief Crown Prosecutors and Chief Constables to ensure the protocol is embedded into practice across England and Wales, as the number of rape cases going to trial this year is expected to be about 30% more than in 2012/13. This means that there will be around 550 extra jury trials this year and 650 extra decisions to charge.

The protocol outlines the developments in both the CPS and Police approach to these cases which have been made over the past decade and is an important step in ensuring that both organisations are not only fully prepared and empowered to deal with the changing nature of this casework, but it will also provide greater consistency in the handling by both the CPS and the Police, including support provided to complainants.

In the letter, circulated today, the DPP and AC Hewitt said that the new protocol is an important step in ensuring that the CPS and Police are not only fully prepared to deal with the changing nature of their casework, but can also provide greater consistency in the quality of handling rape cases. It will also improve the service and support for victims while enabling both police and prosecutors to manage this challenging caseload in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "Rape and sexual abuse against women, men and children can have a devastating impact and the vast majority of offences are still not even reported. A drop in cases referred to us was a real cause for concern when we identified it last year but we are now seeing a significant turnaround in cases coming to court. I have learned this not only from projected volumes of cases for this year but also from travelling around the country where both my staff and others in criminal justice are telling me this in clear terms - including that a significant proportion of Crown Court trials are now in relation to sexual offences.

"The number of rape cases going to trial this year is expected to be about 30% more than in 2012/13, which is in the region of 550 extra jury trials this year compared to two years ago, and approximately 650 extra decisions to charge. This is good news, but what comes along with it is the inevitable increased workload in the area. This shift in the nature of our work is something we have had to prepare for and I am determined to ensure our Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) Units have the skilled lawyers and the essential tools they need to do the job and work effectively with specialist Police rape teams.

"That is why I have rolled out these units across England and Wales and why we have monitored them closely ever since - and this is why we and the Police have developed this updated, comprehensive protocol on handling these cases from start to finish, taking into account all the developments we have made over the past decade."

National Policing Lead for Adult Sexual Offences, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, said: "In order to build and maintain people's confidence in how the police deal with rape and sexual offences and to continue to increase reporting, it is vital that all victims are treated with sensitivity and respect and that their allegations are investigated thoroughly.

"The protocol launched today clearly lays out the steps that police and prosecutors should take to ensure a high quality investigation and build the best possible case. Consistently following this protocol across the country will ensure that we are doing our very best for victims of this uniquely damaging crime."

The protocol forms a part of the joint CPS-ACPO Rape Action Plan, which the DPP and AC Martin Hewitt launched in 2014 and upon which real progress is being made in a number of areas. Progress will be outlined at the national Rape Conference in London on 28 January.

Some of the actions outlined in the protocol include:

  • A reminder that early investigative advice from the CPS to the police is essential, and is a requirement of the Director's Guidance on Charging
  • A commitment that each CPS area will maintain a dedicated RASSO unit, and rape cases will be allocated to rape specialists, responsible for their cases from beginning to end
  • Ensuring that victims have the opportunity to make a Victim Personal Statement describing the effect the offence has had on them for the court and to express an opinion on bail
  • Maintaining the Victims' Right to Review scheme which enables victims to apply for any no further action or discontinuance decision to be reviewed


Notes to Editors

  1. The protocol is available to download from this website.
  2. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) prosecution outcomes are recorded on a defendant basis. In some cases, a number of defendants may be prosecuted together. All defendants may be convicted; all may be acquitted; or some may be convicted and others acquitted.
  3. Rape Trials are defined as proceedings where a defendant has pleaded not guilty and a trial has taken place.
  4. Data for the annual period 2014-15 have been projected on a straight line basis using outturn data for April - September 2014. These are estimated figures and should therefore be treated with caution.
  5. Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) caseload data are available through its Case Management System (CMS) and associated Management Information System (MIS). The CPS collects data to assist in the effective management of its prosecution functions. The CPS does not collect data which constitutes official statistics as defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Data drawn from the CPSs administrative IT system, as with any large scale recording system, is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. Thus figures reported are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by the CPS.
  6. The CPS collects information showing the number of defendants prosecuted for offences of rape by way of a monitoring flag, applied to the case record on the Case Management System (CMS). These statistics are accurate only to the point that the flag has been correctly applied; there may be a small number of cases where the use of the flag has been omitted. A rape flag is applied at the onset of a case, and remains in place even if the charges are subsequently amended or dropped. If a case commences under a different offence, but at a later date charges of rape are preferred, the flag will be applied at that point. Charges of rape may be considered at the time of the pre-charge decision but, following the charging decision, a defendant may be charged with another offence. Similarly, there may be cases where a person was proceeded against for rape but convicted of a lesser offence.
  7. The official statistics relating to crime and policing are maintained by the Home Office and the official statistics relating to sentencing, criminal court proceedings, offenders brought to justice, the courts and the judiciary are maintained by the Ministry of Justice.
  8. For media enquiries call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  9. 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.
  10. 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:
  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. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.