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New approach to prosecuting adult rape cases in CPS Wessex leads to more cases being charged

|News, Sexual offences

New figures from CPS internal data shows that the number of rape-flagged cases being referred to prosecutors in CPS Wessex has increased and a fifth more are being charged.

CPS Wessex has been taking part in a pilot programme to transform how adult rape cases are prosecuted, which is now being rolled out nationally as the next stage of a commitment to drive up the number of cases taken to court and improve victim experiences.

Through the provision of early consultation with the police, which CPS Wessex has been doing for some time, the area has seen a rise in the percentage of legal decisions where rape-flagged charges are authorised. In the last quarter of 2021, 68.6% of rape-flagged cases referred to CPS Wessex from the police were charged, but in the last quarter of 2022, this had increased to 87.2%.

Files referred to CPS Wessex from the police in rape-flagged cases increased by 17% in 2022, with the number of charges increasing by 20% during the same period.

The Crown Prosecution Service’s new national operating model, which is being launched in England and Wales in tandem with 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 new 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 towards a suspect’s behaviour and not on the credibility of victims.

Rose-Marie Franton, CPS Wessex Chief Crown Prosecutor, said: “I very much welcome the launch of the National Operating Model in adult rape cases, helping us to work consistently and build on the changes we have already made to improve outcomes in rape cases across Wessex.

“Our close working relationship with the police has encouraged a significant and positive increase in cases submitted for early investigative advice by our specialist RASSO prosecutors, with an increase of 83% in 2022. Having an opportunity to provide early investigative advice inevitably feeds through to more referrals from the police, more charging decisions made by our prosecutors, and quicker outcomes for victims.

“We’re also creating stronger relationships with Independent Sexual Violence Advisors to help provide better support and communication with rape victims. This work is vital to make sure that victims feel informed and to improve their experience of the criminal justice system.”

CPS Wessex Case Study: Rape and Domestic Abuse

In a case recently prosecuted at Southampton Crown Court, a woman encountered her ex-partner on a night out and, due to injuries he had sustained earlier in the evening, accompanied him home out of concern for his welfare. The man became violent, attacking and strangling her to the point of not being able to breathe, before raping her.

The woman was so scared that she stayed the night at the man’s home.

He bombarded her with threatening messages and calls in the subsequent days, before the woman reported what had happened to the police two days later. The CPS authorised a charge of rape and used new legislation to charge him with non-fatal strangulation.

The offender claimed that sexual intercourse was consensual and denied any physical assaults, but the prosecutor worked closely with the police from the outset to obtain relevant mobile phone evidence to prove the offender’s aggressive pattern of behaviour when the woman had tried to leave him in the past, behaviour that was entirely consistent with his actions on the night he strangled and raped her.

Using the new suspect-centric approach, which is part of our new national operating model for rape, we focused on building a strong case around the actions of the perpetrator. We were able to demonstrate how manipulative the offender had been on previous occasions and developed a strong case strategy to educate the jury on the effects of domestic abuse. The prosecutor used evidence from the offender’s previous convictions to show that he had been violent towards her in the past and she had returned to the relationship, demonstrating that the fact she had remained with him that night did not mean that her allegations were not true – but rather this was symptomatic of the cycle of domestic abuse.

As a result of the joint work between the police and the CPS to build a strong case for prosecution, the case was concluded within five months, delivering swift justice for the victim and ensuring a dangerous man was sent to prison.

He was sentenced to nine years in prison and will serve a further six years on licence thereafter.

CPS Wessex Case Study: Working with Independent Sexual Violence Advisors

Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) provide specialist support to victims and survivors of sexual violence. The Crown Prosecution Service’s new national operating model highlights the importance of further engagement with ISVAs to make sure we are providing a better service to victims.

In a Hampshire case involving the prosecution of a taxi driver who sexually assaulted a woman he picked up in his car after a night out, the CPS took a trauma-informed approach to argue that the victim should not be made to watch distressing CCTV of the incident as part of the criminal proceedings because it would have been detrimental to her recovery.

Working closely with the victim’s ISVA and the police to understand the impact watching such explicit and upsetting footage could have, the CPS represented to the court that the victim should not be shown the CCTV and that all parties owed a duty of care to the victim’s welfare.

When the case concluded, the Judge commended the CPS for the way we handled a difficult case “carefully, sensitively and appropriately”.

The defendant was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and made subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for life.

Notes to editors

  • CPS Wessex covers Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight, and Wiltshire.
  • The CPS national operating model (NOM) is being launched on 10 July 2023 alongside a police national model.
  • 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.
  • Official statistics are maintained by the Ministry of Justice.
  • Our rape-flagged data includes all cases where an allegation of rape has been made, regardless of the final offence.
  • The 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’re 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.
  • The CPS monitoring of cases involving offences of child abuse, crimes against older people, domestic abuse, hate crime, modern slavery and rape involve the application of monitoring ‘flags’ or case-markers to applicable cases that are recorded on the CPS’ electronic Case Management System (CMS). The data that is produced through the application of the flag is primarily used for monitoring performance on all cases that involve allegations or charges where these categories of criminal offending apply. The data is accurate only to the extent that the flags have been correctly applied. The flag is applied from the onset of the case and will remain in place even if the charges are later amended or dropped. If a case commences under a different offence but during the prosecution an applicable charge is preferred, the case is flagged at that stage. 

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