Campaigners have called on the justice secretary to investigate state prosecutors because a “barely functioning” legal system that is failing to get rape cases to court.
The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) coalition estimates there were almost 60,000 reports of rape to the police in England and Wales last year, but less than 1,800 men charged, which led to less than 1,000 convictions.
It has presented minister Robert Buckland with a dossier of evidence, including a statement from a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) whistleblower critical of his employer, in an effort to encourage a shake-up of the current system.
The coalition argues that so-called “weaker” rape cases have been weeded out in favour of complaints with a greater chance of conviction.
Sarah Green, coalition co-director, told HuffPost UK: “Our legal system is barely functioning with regards to rape. What else do you call 60,000 reports of rape to the police last year but only around 1,000 convictions?
“The documents we are sending to the justice secretary today, including a whistleblower statement, a detailed analysis of case statistics and accounts of women’s cases that were dropped by the prosecution service, are damning. They should make any political leader sit up and say this will end on my watch.
“We hope for a response indicating commitment to action soon.”
EVAW is represented by the Centre for Women’s Justice and includes organisations including Rape Crisis and Imkaan, the leading network of Black and ethnic minority women’s abuse organisations.
A report from the CPS itself last year revealed only around 3.3% of all reported rapes end in a conviction.
The dossier features evidence from the coalition’s failed High Court attempt to launch a judicial review into the CPS amid allegations the drop in successful prosecutions had essentially “decriminalised” rape.
One senior member of CPS staff, who asked not to be identified through fear of reprisals, said the CPS secretly chose to change its policy on charging rape cases
He said the focus of training and legal guidance in relation to rape and serious sexual offence prosecutions has changed to discourage prosecutors from charging the more “evidentially challenging” cases that are less likely to find favour with a jury.
He added: “The change in approach implemented by prosecutors as a result of this new messaging has discouraged prosecutors from charging challenging cases of rape, thereby directly contributing to these falls in the volume and proportion of suspects charged.
“I have witnessed at first hand the impact of this new messaging on prosecutor behaviour which I believe has ushered in a new ‘risk-averse’ approach to the prosecution of rape.”
The dossier also includes case studies from rape complainants who were told their cases would not be progressed.
In one, a teacher assaulted by a colleague at his house following a work Christmas party said the fact that she did not immediately leave the man’s house the morning after the assault undermined her case, even though her phone contained text messages in which he admitted assaulting her and apologised.
In another case, a woman allegedly raped repeatedly by her husband collapsed because there was evidence of her making “positive comments about” her relationship with him.
In March, two High Court judges refused the coalition permission to bring a judicial review against the CPS.
The decision has been appealed.
Sue Hemming, CPS legal director, said: “We share the concerns about the gap between reported rapes and those cases which come to court.
“However, the judgment of the High Court was clear, there has been no change of approach in how CPS prosecutes rape. They found that there was no arguable basis for EVAW’s claims.
“The independent inspectorate report on rape found the same, concluding our legal test was correctly applied in 98% of cases they examined.
“We are focused on understanding the charging gap and will shortly announce further plans to help secure justice for everybody affected by sexual violence.”