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New national approach to prosecuting adult rape cases welcomed by CPS London

|News, Sexual offences

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has today rolled out an ambitious new blueprint to transform how adult rape cases are prosecuted.

The National Operating Model (NOM) aims to drive up the number of cases taken to court and improve victim experiences.

Learning from Operation Soteria, the model, which is being launched in England and Wales in tandem with the police, will drive cultural and operational change right across the CPS by setting an improved and standardised approach for how adult rape cases are handled.

The model includes commitments such as early advice to police in every rape or serious sexual assault case within 21 days to:

  • Help build stronger cases by focussing investigations on a suspect’s behaviour and not on the credibility of victims
  • make decisions on third party material at the outset to ensure any requests for personal data are limited, balancing privacy with the need for a thorough investigation
  • Consider and overcome any harmful assumptions or misconceptions about rape and how victims or perpetrators behave that may be present in the case
  • Dedicated victim liaison officers so there is a single point of contact for victims to reduce the potential for delayed communication and help improve the experience for victims
  • Increased scrutiny of CPS and police decision-making, with further engagement with Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs), as well as a focus on our staff with a roll-out of a clinical supervision and bespoke training on suspect-centred approaches.

The model will build on the work of both the nine CPS Areas which have been working as part of Operation Soteria, and the CPS and police’s Joint National Action Plan initiated in January 2021. 

Both have already shown the benefits of better joint working between prosecutors and police with more cases referred to the CPS by police, more suspects charged, and decisions being made more quickly, according to data from the CPS management system used consistently since 2006. Nationally, there has been an increase in adult rape flagged charges of 86% since January 2021 (from 254 to 472 in the latest Quarter – October - December 2022) and an 83% increase in rape-flagged referrals where police approach the CPS for either advice, or a charging decision.


The Pan-London Rape Scrutiny (LSIP) Panel with guest, Professor Vanessa Monroe
The Pan-London Rape Scrutiny (LSIP) Panel with guest, Professor Vanessa Monroe

Lionel Idan, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London South and Chair of the Pan-London Rape Scrutiny and Involvement (LSIP) Panel, said: “CPS London South was one of the five CPS Areas nationally to pilot the learning and principles of Operation Soteria when it was launched back in September 2021. To complement the Metropolitan Police academic deep-dive and create a pan-London approach, Soteria was extended to CPS London North from January 2022. 

“The new national operating model encompasses best practice, policy, and tools – from the testing of innovative activities as part of the Operation Soteria pilots, to the invaluable feedback and learning from members of our Pan-London Rape Scrutiny and Involvement Panel. It is underpinned by continuous improvement which means that post-July and beyond, we will continue to develop and deliver improvements as part of the operating model.

“I am extremely grateful to our policing partners, frontline staff, LSIP members and key stakeholders for their continued support, hard work, and dedication. Our shared goal to improve the handling of adult rape cases will ensure that the model is grounded in operational reality and will lead to sustainable change in our approach to the prosecution of adult rape.”

Kevin Southworth, Metropolitan Police Commander (Head of Profession – Public Protection) and member of the Pan-London Rape Scrutiny and Involvement Panel, said: "Following the Operation Soteria academic team’s study of rape investigation here in London in late 2021, the Met and CPS London have been collaborating more closely than ever to ensure that we build on the learning identified, to improve our service to victim-survivors of these most awful crimes and to bring those responsible to justice.

"Together we have secured over 500 additional charges for RASSO offences compared with the previous year, and simultaneously raised awareness amongst colleagues - prosecutors and police alike - of the paramount need to ensure that we adopt a truly ‘suspect-focused’ investigation in every instance and to protect the rights and needs of our victim-survivors throughout.

"Whilst there is still much more to do, our joint working is already having a significant impact here in London and the launch of the National Operating Model is another major step forward for both our services."

Sian Ruddick, Lead Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA), Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and member of the Pan-London Rape Scrutiny and Involvement Panel, said: "The introduction of the new operating model is a much-needed step forward for victims and survivors of sexual violence. I hope it will offer a framework for all criminal justice agencies to focus on the actions of the offender, challenge victim-blaming attitudes everywhere they appear and support Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs) to carry out the fullness of their role. The time for change is now."

Annette Murphy, Advocacy Services Manager for Jewish Women’s Aid, and member of the Pan-London Rape Scrutiny and Involvement Panel, said: “This model will hopefully provide the comfort and reassurance that victim-survivors need and are entitled to when reporting such a heinous crime to the Police. Victim-survivors will feel more informed about the criminal justice process and what to expect throughout the investigation.

"This transparency is essential in helping victim-survivors to understand the CPS’ decision process and shows the commitment of the CPS to better understanding the victim-survivors’ experiences.”


LSIP members in-person and online scrutinising CPS Decisions in Adult Rape Cases
LSIP members in-person and online scrutinising CPS Decisions in Adult Rape Cases

As well as carrying out a rigorous internal evaluation of Operation Soteria, the CPS also invited an independent academic team from the University of Warwick led by Professor Vanessa Munro, to shine a light on how these changes have been working in practice. Their findings have been vital in strengthening the national operating model.

Notes to editors

  • The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) national operating model was launched on 10 July 2023 alongside a police national model. Read more about the model.
  • On rape-flagging we regularly publish management information to aid transparency and accountability, making clear any limitations. The way we measure our rape data allows us to track and monitor trends, including decisions to take no further action, to properly scrutinise how we’re approaching rape and sexual offences cases and highlight areas for improvement. A rape flag remains in place, even if a decision is taken to charge an offence other than rape or where a rape charge is subsequently amended, to ensure we are properly applying our rape and serious sexual offences policy. The flag allows us to track and monitor trends, around decision to take no further action and review all rape cases to understand how they progress and identify potential learnings. 

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