Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Justice Report ~ Prosecuting sexual offences

Justice Report:

Justice has published the report of Working Party - Prosecuting Sexual Offences

"Recent years have seen a surge in sexual offence allegations. The uncovering of non-recent crimes, a rise in reporting, shifting cultural attitudes and the internet have all contributed to a large increase of cases entering the criminal justice system. In turn, this increase has thrown into the spotlight the complexities of prosecuting sexual offences. The report calls for important reforms to protect complainants and vulnerable individuals and recommends stronger obligations on internet companies to safeguard children and stop online sexual offences from taking place."

The nature and scale of the offences reported has meant that ever-increasing resources are needed to investigate and prosecute. Widely publicised incidents of cases collapsing due to non-disclosure of unused material exemplify the difficulties being caused. The Working Party considered how sexual offences might be prosecuted more effectively and justly in these difficult circumstances and how to protect the rights of complainants and vulnerable people.

An approach that understands what causes sexual offending and seeks to address this through efforts that prevent crime, use alternatives to prosecution and reduce reoffending, is key. For the many prosecutions that must proceed, strategies to cope with mass data, improved treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses and better communication between police, CPS and defence lawyers are required. Through a holistic response to sexual offence allegations, the Working Party considers that the burden these offences place on the criminal justice system will decrease."


It is reported that the Crown Prosecution Service  could be about to face a judicial review over allegedly covert policy changes that are blamed for a dramatic collapse in the number of rape cases going to court - The Guardian 10 June 2019.   Fewer than 4% of women who report attacks can now expect their complaint to reach trial, according to a coalition of women’s organisations who accuse the CPS of “second-guessing jury prejudices”.

While the number of rapes reported to the police nearly tripled between 2014 and 2018, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) points out that the number of cases charged and sent to court fell by 44%.

The problem was revealed last year in the Guardian, which reported that CPS leaders were encouraging prosecutors to drop what they termed “weak” cases.

The CPS has published a response - How we prosecute rape cases - in which the CPS notes that "Sexual offences are some of the most complex cases we prosecute and we train our prosecutors to understand victim vulnerabilities and the impact of rape, as well as consent, myths and stereotypes.

Decisions whether or not to prosecute are based on whether our legal tests are met - no other reason - and we always seek to prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so.

We understand that the falling charge rates for rape is a cause of concern. However, it is not indicative of a change of approach or lack of commitment to prosecute by the CPS.

There has been no change of approach ....."

Nevertheless, the CPS also comments that there has been a "fall in referrals from the police‎ and an increase in cases where the CPS has given the police early investigative advice‎ and where we have asked for further work to be done‎.

We have also seen an increase in the volume of digital data and the analysis of evidence gathered by following reasonable lines of enquiry.‎"

Related Links:

Right to Review Scheme - to seek a review of a CPS decision not to bring charges or to terminate all proceedings.

Online Harms White Paper - April 2019

Barrister Blogger - Sometimes it's right for the police to examine complainants' phones.  It's called investigation

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