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
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
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."
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