Campaigners have warned that a majority of rapists who should have been prosecuted for their crimes are walking free due to a collapse in prosecutions in England and Wales.
Only 1.5 per cent of almost 55,300 rape cases that were recorded by police in 2019 saw a suspect charged, a sharp drop from 7 per cent four years back.
An alliance of women’s groups attempted to launch a legal challenge accusing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) of changing its practices but were refused permission by the High Court in March.
The group on Tuesday published testimonies from complainants, statistical analysis, a CPS whistleblower’s allegations and other evidence from the case.
Katie Russell, the national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales recently said the “wealth of evidence” must be considered as part of an ongoing government review.
“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,” she added.
About 20 testimonies by women and girls’ whose complaints didn’t see prosecution including a lesbian who was allegedly raped by a stranger and women who said they were threatened with knives and guns.
A woman who claimed that a man had raped her at gunpoint was told in a CPS letter that the weapon “was not a serious threat” during the attack, and that the man may have thought she consented before the act took place.
Then, in another case, a gay woman who claimed to have been raped by a man was accused of “engaging with the defendant” before the attack. Charges against the suspect, who was caught on CCTV, were trashed completely.
Rape Crisis is among the signatories of a letter to the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, amid an “end-to-end-review” of how rape cases are handled in the criminal justice system.
Currently, the High Court’s refusal of permission for judicial review over plummeting prosecutions to take place is being appealed as of the time of writing this post.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has accused the CPS of dropping a “merits-based approach” credited with increasing the number of rape prosecutions, but officials debunked the allegation.
They have raised more than £80,000 in a crowdfunding appeal backing the action.
Harriet Wistrich, who is the director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, insisted that there has been a change in approach despite the CPS’ denials.
“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,” she added.
A report from the CPS in September revealed that there were just 1,925 convictions for rape or an alternative lesser offence during 2018-19, down from 2,635 in the previous 12 months, showing a drop of 27 per cent.
However, the CPS said the drop in rape charges was as a result of a number of factors, which includes a reduction in the number of referrals from the police, and an increase in the volume of time-consuming digital data.
Most rape complainants reported that police were demanding access to their mobile phones, new forms were released in 2019 to formalise the requests before Prosecutions.
“If you refuse permission for the police to investigate, or for the prosecution to disclose material which would enable the defendant to have a fair trial then it may not be possible for the investigation or prosecution to continue,” they said.
Just last week, the Information Commissioner discovered that the police were requesting “excessive amounts of personal data” from rape victims’ phones before proceeding to address the issue.