England: Downing Street to set rape prosecution targets

Downing Street is planning to set prosecution targets in rape cases for police and lawyers, according to reports.

The Prime Minister’s crime and justice taskforce is to set targets for police to refer evidentially strong rape cases to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), The Guardian reports.

The move comes in the wake of a steep decline in the number of cases referred by police to the CPS and the number and proportion of rape cases prosecuted.

Rape prosecutions have dropped by 59 per cent since 2016-17, to 2,102 and 1,439 convictions in 2019-20. Reports of rape, however, rose by a third to 55,130. Referrals from the police to the CPS have fallen by 40 per cent since 2016-17.

A UK government spokesperson said: “We are determined to restore faith in the justice system and give victims of rape the confidence that everything will be done to bring offenders to justice … We will continue to work with the police to look at ways to improve their role in the investigation and prosecution of rape, and ensure that their guidance and best practice is implemented in every police force area.”

Between 2016 and 2018 the CPS used its own targets and aimed to achieve a 60 per cent conviction rate. But the targets were dropped when prosecutors realised that they were inappropriate and may have acted as a “perverse incentive”.

Sarah Crew, the most senior police officer for rape in England and Wales, said: “Police remain committed to the cross-government review of how the criminal justice system handles rape. That review is still ongoing and is yet to report its findings … Outcomes for victims of rape are not good enough and all of the criminal justice system will use the review’s findings to improve.”

The Secret Barrister warned about the use of targets in their eponymous book.

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