Rape victims are still being failed by the criminal justice system
Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) have published their findings following a joint inspection of the police and Crown Prosecution Service’s response to rape and have concluded that a lack of collaboration between the two organisations has led to delays and poor communication with victims.
Commenting on the report, APCC Joint Victims Leads Donna Jones & Sophie Linden said:
“This report makes for grim reading for those who have been brave enough to come forward and report this life changing crime. It is appalling that the system is still failing rape victims, leaving them traumatised whilst they wait for justice to be done. Communication is key to making victims feel their voices are being heard and plays a huge part in encouraging and supporting them to stick with the criminal justice process. We are dismayed that the findings of the report have concluded that communication with rape victims post-charge is ‘frequently disjointed and contradictory, and sometimes didn’t take place at all’.
“Victims should be at the heart of the Criminal Justice System. We welcome the recommendation of HMICFRS for immediate improvement required by Police and Prosecutors to significantly improve communication with victims. This is clearly in line with Victims Bill. The victim should choose how they are updated, when and by whom and all parties in the system must improve communication and working practice to ensure this happens.
“As the report recognises, Police and Crime Commissioners are, since 2014, responsible for commissioning most of the local support services for victims of crime. Many of these services are tailored to individual victims’ needs, whether they choose to engage with the criminal justice process or not. We have been involved in the cross-Government review of the Criminal Justice system response to rape, which this inspection report is part of. Important work is underway to ensure all the Criminal Justice agencies come together to commit to making the system more effective, ensuring that all victims of this devastating crime are protected and supported through every stage of the judicial process. We therefore very much welcome the proposal of specialist rape courts to reduce the backlog of cases and reduce victims’ trauma.
“We agree sustained funding, over a longer-term period is vital for the provision of quality services. Annual contracts are not conducive to providing a quality service and supportive relationship to victims.
“We must bolster our workforces across the board, we support the recommendations to ensure those who support traumatised victims are themselves supported. We must also ensure that the system is properly resourced and funded.”
Donna Jones added: “Sadly, the findings of the HMICFRS report are not a surprise. The CPS needs to radically overhaul its approach to charging, not just RASSO cases but all crimes.
If the CPS are serious about speeding up the length of time for a rape case to get to charge & court, they need to put the additional prosecutors they have recruited into major custody suites across the country. This will have a significant impact in improving file management and strengthening relationships between the police and the CPS. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for a data sharing agreement to be signed between the CPS and forces across the country to massively speed up the charging decisions. The delays in charging is one of the biggest factors of victims withdrawing and deciding not to proceed to justice. This must be addressed urgently.”
On 22 February the CPS published a progress report on its five-year blueprint to reverse falling rape prosecutions.
Commenting on the publication, APCC Joint Victims Leads Sophie Linden and Donna Jones said:
“The Inspectorate report comes on the heels of CPS progress update on its five-year blueprint strategy to reverse falling rape prosecutions. While we welcome the work CPS has done across a number of areas including in the Southeast, we believe as an organisation it still has a long way to go.”
“'Prosecution rates are still woefully low. Changes such as a data sharing agreements and co-location of rape investigators and reviewing lawyers should be implemented, to ensure swift justice is achieved for as many victims as is possible."