New report highlights CPS work to tackle child sexual exploitation
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is successfully prosecuting more child abuse cases and making charging decisions more quickly, says a Government report published today (Thurs 16 Feb).
The Tackling Child Exploitation Progress Report highlights a number of significant achievements by the CPS and recognises the organisation's central role in bringing offenders to justice and improving support for victims and survivors.
The first Tackling Child Exploitation report, published in March 2015, set out an ambitious programme of work to enhance the protection of vulnerable children.
Today's report recognises the contribution of the CPS as a key agency and shows that a number of important targets set out in the original report have been met.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said: "I am pleased that this report recognises the important work being done by the Crown Prosecution Service in bringing perpetrators of child sexual exploitation to justice and supporting witnesses and survivors in these highly sensitive cases.
"We will continue to work with other parts of the criminal justice system to ensure we further enhance our handling of child sexual exploitation cases."
The CPS has recruited around 100 new staff, doubling the teams specially trained to deal with rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO). These specialists are dealing with a growing number of cases. Last year there was a 19% increase in the number of offenders convicted of a child sexual abuse-related offence.
Despite this growing workload, cases are being processed faster. The number of cases where a charging decision took longer than 28 days reduced by 70% in just 11 months.
All staff working on rape and serious sexual offence cases have received additional training to ensure they are familiar with priorities and best practice when dealing with child sexual exploitation cases.
A number of projects have sought to speed up the process of prosecuting serious sexual offences. Pilot schemes in Norfolk, South Yorkshire and Nottingham have allowed police to seek advice from prosecution lawyers in the earliest stages of their investigations. The outcome of this pioneering work is now being evaluated to assess whether it should be rolled out elsewhere.
The CPS has also been working with other parts of the criminal justice system to streamline the prosecution of offenders charged with possessing indecent images of children. A new database of child abuse images has speeded up the way evidence is processed. This means cases can be dealt with more swiftly and the workload for investigators has been reduced.
The CPS will continue to be at the centre of work to tackle child sexual exploitation and is part of the management structure of the new Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse. The centre, which has been launched by the Government with £7.5m of funding, will lead the way in ground-breaking research and the shaping of best practice.