It has taken two years, several delays, and did not involve meaningful participation by survivors, but the government eventually issued an apology to the victims and published its findings and recommendations from the “end-to-end” review of how survivors are handled. rape in the country. criminal justice system in England and Wales.
The numbers are stark: The latest Home Office data shows 52,210 rapes were recorded in England and Wales in 2020, but only 843 resulted in a charge by the end of the year, that’s less than 1 in 60 cases. And those are the cases that go to court: some women drop out of the system and many do not report at all. In particular, there are significant obstacles to justice for those most underserved by the criminal justice system, such as black, minority, deaf and disabled women, among many others.
These are urgent issues that need to be addressed, but the review’s answer cannot be that rape is just a difficult crime to prosecute. In most cases of rape, it is not a question of whether there was sexual intercourse, but whether there was consent or not. This is what, the review claims, can lead to focusing on the victim and their “state of mind” during investigations and prosecutions.
We have seen numerous cases in which there has been compelling evidence: multiple victims of the same perpetrator, suspects caught blatantly lying about the facts, evidence of injury or damage to clothing, and in which it seemed highly unlikely that the victim would have given Your consent. what was happening, but incredibly decisions were made not to proceed with a charge.
Harmful myths and stereotypes about how “credible” victims behave and the fact that “one person’s word against another” should not be used to suggest that prosecution is impossible. Police investigations have too often and for too long failed to put the proper emphasis on suspects and their criminal behavior and history.
One of the review’s ambitions is to move toward a new model of “suspect-centric” policing, and the recommended pilot, Operation Soteria, has the potential to be transformative. However, this is a regional project with limited funding, and it may take years before it is implemented at the national level.
Because we know that what happens in court has an impact on decision-making in all previous stages of a rape investigation, we hoped there would be a deeper questioning of what is failing in court and recommendations to address these. problems. This could include a ban on the use of sexual history tests and a special jury commission to consider a variety of things, including the education of jurors.
We also know how traumatic the criminal justice system can be for victims and how intrusive disclosure practices, including “digital strip records,” make them feel like suspects, rather than victims of crime. The review proposes that victims should no longer be subjected to a naked digital record of their communications, and that only evidence that is relevant to a rape case should be used in court; it also recommends better access to therapeutic and clinical support. Immediate steps could also be taken to give all rape victims the option to pre-videotape their evidence, but instead there is another pilot in a handful of crown courts.
The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been ordered to work together to increase the number of rape cases reaching the courts and return prosecutions to 2016 levels before the end of this parliament, and the political leadership It is vital to turn these promises into action. We welcome the responsibility given to the Minister of Crime and Police, Kit Malthouse, to oversee much-needed changes. The levels of prosecution will be monitored and there is a plan to introduce “scorecards” to measure the implementation of the recommendations, but a scoring system does not automatically equate to increased accountability. Poor performance must have real consequences for the higher ups in the police and CPS.
At this point, the words should match the resources, something of which is little mentioned in the review. Since 2010, there has been a reduction in specialized sex crime units, which means there are less experienced and knowledgeable police officers to work on rape cases. The reduction in funding for the specialist women’s sector has made it more difficult for victims to report to the police and stay engaged with the system.
At every step of this review, specialist women’s groups have wanted to help inform a new and better justice system for women and girls who know they are being routinely failed. EVAW, along with Imkaan, Rape Crisis England and Wales, and the Center for Women’s Justice were co-authors a report with a bold list of recommendations to do justice. Sadly, few of them have appeared in the report.
To rebuild the public trust that has been so deeply damaged by the collapse of rape prosecutions, we urgently need to start seeing improvements and investments to scale up the entire system to provide the justice that all rape victims and survivors deserve. . Transforming the response to rape cannot wait another two years for more trials and pilots to be completed. Women have been waiting for justice for too long.
Andrea Simon is Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition
In the United Kingdom, Rape crisis offers support for rape and sexual abuse cases on 0808 802 9999 in England and Wales, 0808 801 0302 in Scotland, or 0800 0246 991 in North Ireland. In the USA, Rainn offers support at 800-656-4673. In Australia, support is available at 1800 Respect (1800 737 732). Other international helplines can be found at ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism