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Friday, 22 November 2019 13:08

Decline in rape charges

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An undisclosed Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) target may be behind huge declines in numbers of rape suspects charged since 2016, the Gazette reveals. Rape prosecutions in England and Wales have plummeted to their lowest level since 2008, despite record numbers of allegations to police. 

Women’s rights organisations brought a legal action against the CPS this autumn, alleging that a covert change in its internal practice was partly responsible. The CPS has previously denied any change in its approach to charging rape. But it has now admitted to the Gazette that it imposed targets on staff between 2016 and 2018 that were ‘not appropriate’ and may have acted as a ‘perverse incentive’ on prosecutors, deterring them from charging less straightforward cases. The targets were never made public by the CPS but are referred to in inspection reports on the service’s performance, which led to their discovery by the Gazette. Lawyers involved in the legal action against the CPS now say its claim to have made no change to its policy on rape was misleading. Kate Ellis, a solicitor with the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: ‘There has been a concerning lack of transparency from the CPS.’ The CPS denies the targets amounted to a change in policy, saying they were intended as benchmarking tools. Under a long-standing code of practice for Crown prosecutors, offenders are supposed to be charged if prosecution is in the public interest and the likelihood of conviction by an impartial jury is ‘realistic’ - more than 50%.

For full article https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/exclusive-perverse-incentive-contributed-to-slump-in-rape-charges/5102152.article

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