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How prosecutors in CPS South East are working to close rape charging gap

|News, Sexual offences

Prosecutors and police forces in the South East have been working tirelessly to address the gap between reported rapes and cases reaching court.

Robust discussions about barriers to prosecution identified that earlier and more meaningful engagement between police and the CPS could drive up the charging rate.

As a result, in January a joint CPS/Police Rape Improvement Group was established in the South East region, which covers Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

The project comes as the CPS today launches its new Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO 2025) strategy.

The key measures, overseen by specialist RASSO prosecutors, include:

  • Early advice. As of January, all suitable rape complaints are submitted to the CPS for advice within four to six weeks of a suspect’s arrest. The lawyer, investigator and supervisor will then agree a joint strategy to progress the case. In that time, CPS South East has already received more than 100 cases for early advice it would not previously have seen.
  • Triage clinics. RASSO unit heads are visiting local police teams on a regular basis to discuss how challenging cases, which might previously reached an impasse, can be taken forward and resolved. These have received positive feedback from investigators seeking to understand how to meet the threshold for prosecution.
  • Scrutiny of NFA (no further action) decisions. Joint CPS/police scrutiny panels consider a cross-section of cases where investigators have made no referral for early advice or triage and taken no further action (NFA). This aims to ensure consistency in decision-making and identify any cases with the potential for prosecution that may have been missed.

This work is in its early stages and builds on other joint working with the police, which has seen the proportion of rape cases charged in the South East increasing from 64.9% in 2018/19 to 74.6% in 2019/20.

Frank Ferguson, South East Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “Like everyone in the CPS, I share the concerns about the gap between reported rapes and cases reaching court.

“Our specialist prosecutors have been working tirelessly with police colleagues in the region to reverse this trend and have piloted a number of initiatives over the past year.

“Initial results have been very encouraging, with more cases reaching the CPS at an earlier stage and police and prosecutors working together from the outset to overcome evidential challenges.

“However we recognise there is much more to be done and will work with partners across the country to give survivors confidence that their attackers will be brought to justice.”

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