Violence Against Women
Violence against Women (VAW) includes crimes that affect women disproportionately such as domestic violence, rape, sexual offences, forced marriage, honour-based violence and other crimes perpetrated primarily, but not exclusively, by men against women.
This is unacceptable and it is against the law. Whilst recognising that these issues mainly affect women, our policies address both women and men as victims/survivors or alleged perpetrators of these incidents.
Rape and Sexual Violence
Rape is one of the most serious and damaging crimes, and one of the most difficult to prosecute. In order for CPS lawyers to bring a case to court, we must have enough evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.
Finding the evidence to prosecute rape cases is uniquely challenging as rape usually takes place in private with no other witnesses. Even if it is possible to prove to a jury forensically that sexual intercourse took place, prosecutors must also be able to prove that the victim did not consent, and that the defendant did not reasonably believe the victim was consenting.
When there is conflicting evidence in a case, prosecutors must assess the credibility and reliability of all the evidence. If a prosecutor decides not to take a case to court it will be because there isnt enough evidence. This decision is not based on whether the prosecutor believes the victim or not, as is sometimes assumed. All rape cases are reviewed by specialist CPS lawyers who have had training to ensure they prosecute such cases sensitively and robustly, and ignore the myths and stereotypes associated with rape.
Unless a defendant pleads guilty, the complainant will almost certainly need to give evidence in court. Many victims do not want to do this, but there are various special measures we can apply for which may help, such as asking the judge if the complainant can give evidence from behind a screen or via video link from another location.
Rape complainants are also entitled to life-long anonymity regardless of the case outcome.
As part of the West Midlands CPS' commitment in supporting victims and witnesses of such crimes, we have been working with local support groups, such as the Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA), to support victims through the prosecution process.
At a recent Survivors Trust National ISVA conference, Suzanne Llewellyn, Senior Sector Crown Prosecutor for the Eastern Sector, was invited to explain the role of the CPS, including the initial charge and decision making process, as well as our role in witness care and supporting witnesses through the trial process, with an emphasis on special measures. She was also asked to expand on the recent CPS policy on Perverting the Course of Justice - charging in cases involving rape and/or domestic violence allegations.
Where the ISVAs had been invited and involved in CPS Violence Against Women Hate Crime Scrutiny Panels or operational/strategic meetings with the CPS, they felt positive about their engagement with the CPS as they felt encouraged to feedback local concerns from victims and witnesses as well as sharing ideas on how we could improve our services.
Such service improvements in some of the Sectors in the West Midlands have included ISVAs being allowed to sit near the victim at court in order to provide them with support and victims being afforded a private place in the well of the court, out of sight of the defendant and jury, to observe the remainder of the trial after giving evidence.
The CPS in the West Midlands have started to provide some input into ISVA training, which provides us with the opportunity to reinforce the message of good communication and relationships with local ISVAs, is vital and hopefully will increase the confidence of victims and witnesses.
Crimes committed to defend a family's honour will not be tolerated in our society.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is determined to prosecute more of these cases and, to that end, we have set up a network of specialist prosecutors across the country, with in-depth knowledge of the complexities and sensitivities around these cases.
Honour based violence and forced marriage are ultimately about men policing the behaviour of women. This can include a woman's sexual behaviour such as her choice of partner.
Crimes can include acts of physical or verbal abuse, threats, kidnap, rape and even murder.
Often the victims are young - sometimes children - and afraid to tell police for fear of reprisal or being shunned by their entire family or community. Speaking out takes real bravery, so it is vital victims are supported by the CPS through every stage of the court process. Prosecutors can apply for special measures so that victims can give evidence behind a screen, or via TV link away from the court room. Witness Care Officers will also endeavour to help someone give their best evidence by doing anything from booking taxis to organising interpreters.
Honour based violence often involves long-standing cultural beliefs and as such can be difficult to prosecute. But the CPS will not shy away from tackling this crime even when British citizens are taken abroad to be harmed. It is a fundamental abuse of human rights and should not be tolerated in any civilised society.