'The system is broken' - Four in five rape cases dropped before court
PUBLISHED: 05:30 19 November 2019 | UPDATED: 07:23 19 November 2019
A charity supporting women who suffer sexual violence has warned the justice system is broken - after leaked figures showed a huge decline in the rate of rape prosecutions.
Suffolk Rape Crisis (SRC) said it was extremely concerned by the data, which showed that the number of cases police referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had barely changed in four years - despite a near 300% increase in rape reports.
The Cabinet Office figures, which were leaked to the Guardian, also show that while rape reports doubled in Essex, police referred fewer cases to the CPS. Of all cases referred in the Eastern region, just 22% resulted in the suspect being charged - the lowest rate in the UK.
SRC director Amy Roch said the "terrible" conviction rates stemmed from problems including victim-blaming attitudes in society.
"Despite ever-increasing reporting of these crimes, conviction rates are at an all-time low and we believe that the current system is fundamentally broken," she added.
SRC is aiming to raise awareness about the problem as part of its 'Reclaim the Night' march in Ipswich on November 30.
MORE: Women ready to Reclaim the Night in Ipswich with march through town centre
The Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ) has launched a judicial review against the CPS's alleged failure to prosecute rape cases.
The CWJ said women who reported a rape had a less than 4% chance of ever having their case heard in court.
It accused the CPS of ditching "weak" cases such as when the victim is vulnerable due to their age, intoxication of mental health problems.
A CWJ spokesman said the approach was "dragging us backwards" after years of progress and was a "denial of justice" to the victims, who are mainly women.
Suffolk police figures show violence and sexual assault crimes had the worst prosecution rate of all crime categories last year. More than half of cases were dropped before court.
Det Chief Supt Eamonn Bridger said many victims did not want to go to court. "We don't make the final charging decisions, it's the CPS," he added. "They will weigh up the evidence and whether it has a reasonable prospect of conviction. If we don't have the victim's evidence we know we're in a really difficult position."
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The CPS said there had been no change in policy on rape cases and decisions to prosecute were solely based on whether legal tests were met. "These offences can have a devastating impact, and it's essential that all victims have confidence to report their experiences," a spokesman added.
"We will always seek to prosecute where there is sufficient evidence to do so, in line with the Code for Crown Prosecutors.
Victims praised for bravery
Essex Police said rape investigations were often complex and required victims to show "immense bravery" to come forward.
Det Chief Supt Steve Worron said: "Investigations must be robust, factual and evidential ahead of a charge submission while being supported by the person reporting the offence.
"While many survivors support prosecutions, we have experienced situations where our investigations do not result in a prosecution and in some cases this is due to survivors not supporting prosecution.
"The reasons for this vary from case to case and we continually work with support groups to ensure survivors can make informed decisions that are right for them.
"I am really proud of the detectives and police staff in our sexual abuse investigation teams who work tirelessly and with great compassion to support and safeguard victims and bring perpetrators of these abhorrent crimes to justice."
Det Chief Supt Worron said there had been a significant increase in reports of rape - including more than 190 last month alone.
He encouraged victims to seek support.
Visit the police's website for more information.