The Victims’ Commissioner is leading calls for reforms to the criminal justice system after claiming that the current system puts more people at risk through failure to tackle potential serial rapists.
Dame Vera Baird expressed her concerns following the publishing of official figures which showed that the number of reports of rape has increased, yet the number of charges being brought has fallen.
The figures revealed that rapes reported to police rose by almost 13,000 to 54,045 in 2017-18, with 11,913 attacks not recorded as crimes, up from 8,624 the previous year.
The overall rate of charges decreased from 6.8 per cent to 4.2 per cent during that period according to data from public bodies which was gathered by the Rape Monitoring Group and published by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.
The data was recorded by bodies including the Home Office, the Office for National Statistics, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), covering all 43 police forces in England and Wales and the British Transport Police.
The CPS decided not to charge any suspects in just under half the cases. For 24,280 of the offences, there were “evidential difficulties”, such as the victim not supporting a prosecution. 2,238 offences resulted in a charge or summons, with the outcome for 6,647 not yet recorded.
According to the latest MoJ figures, the average prison sentence for rape is about nine years.
Dame Baird has now called on the Government to act quickly in its review of how complaints were handed to ensure that victims receive justice.
She said: “The criminal justice system is letting down current victims and creating new victims by failing to tackle potential serial rapists.
“More complainants are coming forward, but fewer cases are being prosecuted and only one in every 50 cases results in a conviction. How can this be justice? We know that nearly four in five victims of sexual assault choose not to report the crimes committed against them. How can we ever give these victims the confidence to report when so few cases ever secure a conviction?
“We need to understand the reasons behind this failure. It is in part down to the treatment of complainants by police and prosecutors – for example, failing to update them on investigations or making intrusive and disproportionate demands on their data. We also know that the treatment of complainants in the courtroom can cause trauma and distress.”