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New approach to prosecuting adult rape cases in South East leads to more cases being charged

|News, Sexual offences

New figures from CPS internal data shows that the number of rape referrals made by Kent, Surrey and Sussex Police has almost trebled in the last three years.

The South East has been taking part in a pilot programme to transform how adult rapes are prosecuted, which is now being rolled out nationally as the next stage of a commitment to drive up the number of cases taken to court and improve victim experiences. 

Rape-flagged referrals in the South East from the three police forces stood at 99 in 2018/19, but this rose dramatically by 178% to 276 referrals in 2021/22. During the same period, the number of rape-flagged charges doubled from 82 to 164.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s new national operating model, which is being launched in England and Wales in tandem with police, will drive cultural and operational change right across the CPS by setting an improved and standardised approach for how adult rape cases are handled. 

The new model includes commitments such as early advice to police in every rape or serious sexual assault case within 21 days to help build stronger cases by focussing investigations towards a suspect’s behaviour and not on the credibility of victims. 

Through the provision of early consultation with the police, which the South East has been doing for some time, the area has seen a rise in the percentage of legal decisions where charges are authorised. In the first quarter of 2021, 55.6% of rape-flagged cases referred to CPS South East from the police were charged, but in the first quarter of 2023, this had increased to 78.9%.

Sarah Dineley, of the CPS, said: “The launch of the National Operating Model builds on the work that we have been doing in the South East over the last few years to increase the number of rape prosecutions and we have already seen significant improvements in our performance since introducing the pilot locally.

“Our dedicated team of Rape and Serious Sexual Offence prosecutors have already provided advice to the police on 100 occasions so far this year to help them build stronger cases and I have no doubt that this will result in more charging decisions once those investigations conclude.

“Our approach is clearly paying dividends in improving the outcome of rape cases in the South East, as we have seen an increase in the number of cases being charged in our Area. Part of that is down to the strong relationships we have built with the police in Kent, Surrey and Sussex and we will continue to prioritise this area of work.”

Notes to editors

  • Sarah Dineley is the Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South East with responsibility for the Crown Court and Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) teams.
  • The CPS national operating model (NOM) is being launched on 10 July 2023 alongside a police national model.
  • We regularly publish management information to aid transparency and accountability, making clear any limitations. The way we measure our rape data allows us to track and monitor trends, including decisions to take no further action, to properly scrutinise how we’re approaching rape and sexual offences cases and highlight areas for improvement. A rape flag remains in place, even if a decision is taken to charge an offence other than rape or where a rape charge is subsequently amended, to ensure we are properly applying our rape and serious sexual offences policy. The flag allows us to track and monitor trends, around decision to take no further action and review all rape cases to understand how they progress and identify potential learnings.  

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