Rape victims in England and Wales to give video evidence to boost convictions

Rape victims in England and Wales will be able to provide their evidence on video prior to a trial to help improve conviction rates, it is understood.

The plans form part of a review, led by the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, and the home secretary, Priti Patel, aiming to reduce stress on survivors.

The government review to be unveiled next month is considering a plan for rape survivors to pre-record their evidence, including cross-examination, to spare them the trauma of appearing in person in court.

The plans will also call on judges to bar the public from the courtroom more often and ensure police return mobile phones to victims within 24 hours.

In September 2019, the the annual Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) report from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) showed there were only 1,925 convictions for rape or an alternative lesser offence during the 2018-19 financial year, down from 2,635 in the previous 12 months – a drop of 26.9%.

The figure fell a further 25% in summer 2020 when the CPS revealed 1,439 alleged rapists were convicted of rape or lesser offences in 2019-20.

The number of completed prosecutions also reached a record low, with 2,102 in 2019-20, compared with 3,034 in 2018-19, a fall of about 31%.

Critics including the End Violence Against Women Coalition (Evaw) have accused the CPS of moving away from a “merits-based approach” to deciding which cases of alleged rape and other serious sexual assault should be prosecuted.

The court of appeal ruled in March that the CPS had not changed its policy on prosecuting alleged rapes, with Evaw calling the decision “another establishment betrayal of victims of violence against women and girls”.

READ  More than 500 victims of trafficking detained in 2018, UK study finds

Next month’s government review will be published after MPs heard prosecutors dealing with rapes and serious sexual offences have 80% more cases than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.

CPS lawyers are handling on average about 27 such cases, compared with 15 prior to the outbreak, the Commons justice committee was told in March.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here