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National blueprint for prosecuting rape takes a step closer with refreshed joint work pledge

|News, Sexual offences

A blueprint for prosecuting rape and serious sexual offences has taken a significant step forward today - as new data reveals charge rates for rape have increased to 72.8%.

Quarterly statistics from the Crown Prosecution Service also show rape referrals from forces increased by 10%. It comes as police and CPS commit to a new programme of joint working to drive improvements right across England and Wales.

The refreshed commitment – under the Joint National Action Plan – doubles down on the pledge for police and prosecutors to work together earlier to build strong cases which can pass swiftly through the justice system. A significant amount of work has taken place to transform the way rape cases are handled and this will be used to inform an ambitious, national operating model for these offences next year. This work has already led to an increase in the number of rape referrals from the police to the CPS and in charges.

Max Hill KC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “It is only through genuine partnership between CPS and police that we will deliver justice for more victims of these devastating offences.

“We are seeing the benefits of better joint working – we are building stronger cases and file quality is improving- which is reflected by the increase in referrals and charges.  Our teams are testing a range of new approaches so we can design the most effective way of collaborating on rape investigation and prosecutions with support from academic insight. This joint working is at the heart of our work to bring change right across the country, so our service is consistent and compassionate for all.”

The joint action plan was first launched in January 2021 and has been an important foundation in overhauling how sexual offences are investigated and prosecuted. It is one strand of work to test the best methods for joint working so the new blueprint – called the national operating model – can be available to all areas next year.

Since launch, 22 commitments have been met, this includes:

  • An improvement in working relationships between police and CPS and the prioritisation of early advice so strong cases can be built as early as possible.
  • Improvements have been made to victim communication including a pledge for more frequent contact and a clear guide – called a digital walkthrough - to explain the justice process.
  • Performance data has been used with a critical thinking approach and joint meetings set up to identify areas of focus. 
  • The partnership between Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, CPS and Police has been strengthened to make sure support for victims is better co-ordinated through the national ISVA framework.

As well as the National Action Plan, work is progressing on Operation Soteria, a joint programme aimed at revolutionising the way police and prosecutors investigate rape cases.

The new pilot is testing innovative new approaches to find the best methods for driving results. So far, nine CPS areas and five forces are taking part with a further 14 due to join, before being rolled out across the nation.

Sarah Crew, Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police and National Police Chiefs' Lead for Adult Sex Offences, said: “Working effectively together we have the potential to be so much more than the sum of our parts – refreshing this commitment is a vital step in our journey.

“Police going to CPS earlier and more often will lead to a rise in referrals to CPS. This means more charging decisions leading to more trials and more convictions. Early advice helps us use our joint resources more effectively and significantly increase the number of cases going to court.

“Through Operation Soteria, the impact of this better joint working is clear, and we are building a strong evidence base for how forces across the country can help transform the way they work.”

The refreshed plan sets out actions that will drive a consistent high standard of investigating and prosecuting rape, providing a foundation to deliver on the insight of Op Soteria. The work can be seen in these case studies:

  • Concise actions secure swift justice in Mersey-Cheshire
  • Efficient decisions prevent extra work for the prosecution of a predatory pensioner 
  • Police and prosecutors support a victim who suffered years of familial abuse 
  • Working together in the East Midlands to overcome identity issues
  • South East successful team working case studies

Both the police and CPS are focused on embedding these changes and building stronger cases as early as possible through an offender centric approach.

Additional actions include developing and delivering joint rape and serious sexual offences learning in key areas such as the impact of trauma, decision-making and the changing nature of sexual behaviours, as well as developing a forensic evidence toolkit.

Today’s update is a renewed commitment to partnership work between the police and CPS to serve victims of rape and pursue justice.

Read more about our joint work in the Police-CPS Joint National Rape Action Plan – refresh 2022.

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