Nearly half of rape victims are abandoning their investigations, with a growing proportion of them not wishing to prosecute even when a suspect has been identified, according to a report from the ministerial cabinet leaked to the Guardian.
The figures, prepared for a secret internal government review earlier this year, reveal a system in crisis, with tens of thousands of women reluctant to sue their abusers in the face of invasive disclosure demands, at a lower likelihood of getting a conviction. and long delays. seeing their case brought to court.
The report, which was released during an election campaign in which the Conservatives place the fight against crime at the heart of their electoral strategy, suggests that a lack of resources due to austerity has a impact on the capacity of the criminal justice system to prosecute rape.
Reported rapes are on the rise. However, the police are referring fewer cases to prosecution at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which in turn is charging even fewer cases.
Extremely sensitive data was collected by the Cabinet Office-based Prime Minister's Implementation Unit earlier this year as part of an urgent investigation into the dramatic fall in rape prosecutions in England and the UK. in Wales. The rape lawsuits are at their lowest level in more than a decade.
The briefing shows senior officials who recognize that the criminal justice system treats crimes "is particularly bad for rape" and express suspicions – never publicly expressed – that problems may be due to lack of resources.
The document, marked as "official – sensitive", states: "The police assign some unsuccessful results after shorter investigations than in previous years." He also said: "The factors that explain this situation are unclear, but it may indicate a" rationing "of police time and resources to more" resolved "cases.
While the number of recorded rapes increased by 173% between 2014 and 2018, the police returned 19% fewer prosecution cases and prosecution prosecutorial decisions dropped by 44% during the same period.
One of the most worrying changes is the increasing proportion of business culminating in "16 outcome", when a suspect was identified as a result of a survey of the police, but the victim does not want additional measures to be taken. The document reveals that between 2015 and 2018, the proportion of cases that dropped due to outcome 16 increased from 33% to 48%.
More than 20,000 women – an average every 30 minutes – have decided not to open an investigation into the rape, even after the suspect's identification, in 2018.
Activists believe that this sharp increase could reflect the fact that victims are discouraged from filing a complaint because they are confronted with disclosing their privacy and intimate as a result of content requests for their phones and laptops . The length of time elapsed between the offense and the completion in court, which has increased by 37% to an average of two years since 2014, may deter others.
Claire Waxman, who is the first Victims Commissioner in London, said the figures highlight important issues in the way the criminal justice system deals with rape. "There is such an inconsistency between the police and the rape treatment areas," she said.
"We conducted a survey in London with the Met on 500 cases and we found that in 58% of cases, the victims had withdrawn their complaint. The main reason we see is that [threats] the confidentiality of the disclosure. People feel very compelled to give their consent. Victims do not want to share all their personal details, even if only with the CPS and the police. It's a risk they do not want to take. "
The report also reveals regional variations leading to a lottery of postal codes to provide justice to rape victims. The figures show that no police force in England and Wales has referred cases corresponding to the increase in the number of rapes recorded between 2014 and 2018.
The lower number of cases referred to the SPC was compounded by a further decline in the tax rate. The rape complaint rate decreased between 2014 and 2018 in the majority of CPS areas. In total, 11 of the 14 CPS areas registered a significant drop in the number of suspects and three – Wales, South East and East Midlands – increased. This effectively translates into new variations in the victims' chances of seeing their case continued.
The review also shows that the time taken by the SCP to make a decision as to the opportunity to charge a suspect has doubled since 2013-14, while it was on average 30 , 6 days, to 2018 where he reached 86.2 days.
Katie Russell, spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales, said: "The criminal justice process takes a lot of time and can be traumatic for those who have already experienced the trauma of sexual violence or abuse. .
"There are big differences in the way sexual offenses are treated in different areas. And perhaps most alarmingly, charging rates are down, despite the record number of reports to the police. In the end, only a tiny fraction of sex offenders are brought to justice, while the victims and survivors of these serious crimes fail. "
A lawsuit was launched against the CPS for its inability to prosecute rape after the fall of rape charges. The challenge comes after the Guardian denounced allegations that prosecutors were advised to "take out of the system cases deemed to be weak", which caused concern about a change not being made. stated in their approach to prosecution.
A spokesman for SPC said: "The growing gap between the number of recorded rapes and the number of cases brought to court is a source of concern for the criminal justice system. We consider that each case referred by the police and the CPS will seek to prosecute and initiate criminal prosecution whenever the legal standard is met.
"Most CPS zone teams deal with multiple police forces and any variation in the number of referrals will result in different charging rates. The whole-of-government review will examine the issue of regional variation and we work with the police to continue to improve our management of these complex cases. "
The "24-page end-to-end review of the criminal justice response to rape" was distributed to cabinet members, senior officials, senior police officers, prosecutors and victim groups involved in the review, which is coordinated by the Criminal Justice Commission (CJB). The CJB is chaired by the Secretary of Justice, now Robert Buckland, on the Board of Education, and brings together the Home Secretary, currently Priti Patel, the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary.
Sarah Crew, head of the National Council of Chiefs of Police (NPCC) for sexual offenses involving adults, said: "Anyone involved in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes recognizes that there is still much work to be done to increase the number of cases brought to court.
"Once we understand the causes of these trends, our partners and ourselves are committed to making real and lasting improvements to the entire system."