Prosecutors and Police join forces in the North East to reduce delays in charging decisions for victims of rape and serious sexual offences
Prosecutors in the North East have been working with police to make promising strides in improving file quality and reducing delays in charging decisions for rape and sexual assault cases.
Staff in the region’s Rape and serious Sexual Offences Unit (RASSO) joined forces with colleagues from Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland Constabulary earlier this year to improve case file quality and ensure a greater proportion of cases could be charged first time. This joint working has already reduced the time taken to complete a case review, which means a charging decision can be made without unnecessary delays.
Jim Hope, Head of RASSO and Complex Case Unit North east, said: “Both police and CPS colleagues recognised a problem with delays in case progression from the time an offence was reported until a case was charged. We have worked together to find solutions which have already decreased delays on charging decisions for victims.
“The results are looking promising as the CPS requests for further information have reduced by 37 per cent and our charge rate for these offences has increased by 21 per cent. We know there is still more work to do, but these improvements have been made in just eight months.”
To make the necessary improvements, police and prosecutors focused on the quality of police file submissions, CPS review decisions and a targeted review of any cases where there had been delays in progressing. In response, the following measures were introduced:
- Enhanced triage process to address file quality issues and reduce the number of unnecessary requests for further information;
- Police RASSO single points of contact (SPOCs) to provide a direct line of contact between CPS and police to aid the immediate resolution of any file quality issues;
- Monthly meetings between CPS and Police Management were established to review performance, cases resulting in an unsuccessful outcome, casework issues and any feedback on themes arising from case file reviews;
- Meetings between CPS and police- RASSO clinics- were held on specific cases to agree investigation strategy and aid charging decisions on complex cases;
- Practical case study-based training programme for RASSO prosecutors, which included training on reasonable lines of enquiry and issues arising in complex RASSO cases; and
- CPS input into police training courses for specialist rape and child abuse investigators.
Debbie Breen, District Crown Prosecutor in the North East RASSO team, said: “These measures have made a huge difference and ultimately, improved victims’ experience at a difficult time in their lives. We all want to do our best for victims of these sickening offences and know we have to work together to achieve this shared goal.”
The CPS and police are working on improving our liaison with Independent Sexual Violence Advocates by setting up regular forums to discuss how we can improve our communication with victims. The North East is also analysing the reasons and nature of requests for further evidence to the police, and introducing a process of examining the effectiveness of case management hearings at court.
DCI Paul Young from Northumbria police said: ‘“Northumbria Police and the CPS North East RASSO team recognised the need for a strong, focussed collaborative approach to improve our joint performance in this area, file quality and victim care is of paramount importance and we are beginning to see the fruits of this approach with improved charge and conviction rates. There is however a long way to go and we will endeavour to continue our with our hard work.”