Today (30 Jun), powerful research has been handed to a cross-government review of how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) handles rape cases. The evidence submitted included findings from "Reclaiming Voice: Minoritised Women and Sexual Violence", a national study conducted by Dr. Ravi Thiara (University of Warwick) and Sumanta Roy (Imkaan). You can download the Reclaiming Voice report here.
Download our Rape Reviewing briefing here.
Reclaiming Voice provides unique insights into how minoritised women make sense of sexual violence and respond to such violations within a wider societal context of silencing and unspeakability and specifically how this manifests for minoritised women based on their intersectional location.
Leading women’s organisations have today (30.06.20) delivered a large evidence bundle from their landmark judicial review case (1) brought against the CPS where they alleged that the CPS had changed its policy and practice on rape leading to a catastrophic collapse in the number of rape cases charged and making it to court.
Last year there were almost 60,000 reports of rape to the police, but less than 1,800 men charged, and less than 1,000 convictions (2).
The evidence bundle includes (3):
a dossier of 20 women’s rape cases which the CPS decided not to charge, including a woman held at knifepoint, a woman whose rape was filmed and video found on suspects phone, multiple cases involving mobile phone messages where the suspect admitted to the offence and another where CPS gave the fact that the survivor had “enjoyed an adventurous sex life” as a reason not to charge.
a detailed ten-year statistical analysis of police and CPS official performance statistics on rape which finds the data entirely consistent with a change in approach, and cannot be explained by the reasons offered in the CPS defence of the case
the legal Facts and Grounds of the JR complaint against the CPS
a statement from the End Violence Against Women Coalition dealing with the lack of transparency and consultation in the change of approach
And, critically, included with the legal bundle is a report published recently by Imkaan, the leading network of Black and minoritised women’s abuse organisations and the University Warwick, which is based on in-depth interviews with Black and minoritised BME rape survivors and examines the catalogue of failure and racial discrimination facing BME women if they do report rape. Also included is a new briefing specific to the CJS drawn from this evidence. Consideration of inequalities has so far hardly featured in the ongoing government Rape Review. (4)
The women’s groups enclose the evidence with a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland in his capacity as Chair of the Criminal Justice Board which is currently overseeing an ‘end to end review’ of the police, CPS and courts’ performance on rape, with a view to making recommendations for change (4). This review was commissioned in March 2019 when it became clear that prosecutions were in freefall despite increasing reports to the police, creating a massive justice deficit (5).
The women’s groups are also making the evidence available online and urge journalists, MPs, all those in a position of influence and members of the public to study the documents and the insight they provide on the failings of the criminal justice system in order to better advocate for change.
The release of evidence comes a week after the Information Commissioner’s report which found that police extraction of personal data from mobile phones was “excessive” and without legal basis. (6)
The refusal of permission in the Judicial Review against the CPS is being appealed and currently awaiting a hearing date.
Sarah Green, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition says:
“Our case against the Director of Public Prosecutions showed the very high level of power the DPP has to make decisions in key legal areas, with the absence of any means to scrutinise him. We need the government’s Rape Review to deliver ambitious recommendations that will meaningfully address what currently amounts to the effective decriminalisation of rape. The only way it can do that is by taking account of the compelling evidence that we have presented today.”
Baljit Banga Executive Director of Imkaan says:
“The women we spoke to as part of Imkaan's research, Reclaiming Voice described the different ways they were forced into silence at personal, family, community and societal levels - which they lived with for as long as 15 years before seeking help. Women spoke about the silencing and damaging impact of racialised and gendered myths within different institutions including the Police and Courts.
If we are to provide justice and protection to all women and girls who are subject to sexual violence, it is imperative that we address structural and systemic racial injustices and institutional discrimination which exist within the CJS. This cannot be achieved through ad-hoc discussions or training sessions but requires systemic, cultural change otherwise we will continue to fail black and minoritised girls/women.
Centre for Women’s Justice Director Harriet Wistrich says:
“The extensive evidence we have assembled for the judicial review demands careful scrutiny; we have no doubt that it shows that the CPS have changed their approach to reduce the number of rape prosecutions being brought. We continue to be inundated with inquiries from rape victims who have been told by the CPS that their cases will not be prosecuted, despite compelling evidence and the risk that dangerous men will feel free to offend again. “
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales says:
"It’s only right this wealth of significant evidence be delivered to Government and carefully considered as part of its ongoing rape review.
It is clearly evident, both from official statistics and the first-hand experience of victims and survivors and the Rape Crisis and other specialist workers who support them, that the criminal justice system is failing on all forms of sexual violence and abuse and has been for some time.
The significant majority of those who are subjected to these traumatic crimes don't currently have the confidence to report to the police, and a small minority of those who do go on to see the perpetrator even charged, let alone convicted. This means the overwhelming majority of people committing these serious offences are walking free.
This is a monumental failure not just of criminal but of social justice - one that affects everyone and with which everyone should be deeply concerned. Victims and survivors of rape, sexual abuse and all forms of sexual violence simply deserve better."
The CPS and Ministry of Justice’s own figures show that while rapes reported to the police have nearly tripled (up by 173%) between 2014 and 2019, the number of cases charged and sent to court is actually down by 51% across 5 years and is the lowest on record. More here.
The Judicial Review revealed that the CPS had, without consultation, dropped the ‘merits based approach’ previously adopted in rape cases which is credited with increasing the number of rape convictions.
Evidence from a whistleblower, shows that the director of legal services, Gregor McGill, led a series of road shows for RASSO prosecutors where he suggested there should be a ‘touch of the tiller’ which would effectively lead to a drop weaker cases.
Such instruction is very likely to leave prosecutors in local areas with the incentive to second guess what a jury might think and decide not to charge for example in cases where the complainant may be ‘blamed’ for what happened due to prejudice and myths about rape. It is not the job of the prosecution service to second guess jury prejudices; the job is to build the strongest case possible, based on each cases ‘merits’ and with an examination of the giving and seeking of consent.
There is enormous public interest in the case. The women’s rights campaigners have raised more than £80,000 in a CrowdJustice crowdfunding appeal where donations of £10 and £20 were accompanied by women leaving messages and disclosing their own traumatic experiences of sexual violence and failures by the criminal justice system.
More on the EVAW website.
Notes for Editors
PLEASE CONTACT EVAW FOR EMBARGOED COPIES OF ALL DOCUMENTS REFERENCED ABOVE, INCLUDING 4 PAGE SYNOPSIS OF LEGAL MATERIAL
(1) The Judicial Review against the CPS for their failure to prosecute rape was initiated in June 2019, a permission hearing took place March 17th 2020. Permission for a full hearing was not granted, EVAW are awaiting a date for the appeal hearinghttps://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/17-march-high-court-rape-campaigners-face-cps-in-court/
(3) The evidence will be available in full on the EVAW website from 00.01 on 30.06.20: https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/campaign/rape-justice-fail/
(4) ‘Reclaiming Voice: Minoritised Women and Sexual Violence Key Findings’ Report:
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