Home / Insights / Blog / Rape Charges Fall to Lowest Number in 10 Years

Rape Charges Fall to Lowest Number in 10 Years

Rape Charges Fall to Lowest Number in 10 Years

crime defence experts

The number of rape cases being charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in England and Wales has fallen to the lowest figure in a decade, despite an increase in the number of incidents being reported to police.

According to the CPS’s annual Violence Against Women and Girls Report, a total of 2,882 suspects investigated for rape in 2017-18 were later charged with an offence – some 850 fewer than in 2016-17, marking a 23.1% decline in charges. Despite these dwindling figures, Home Office statistics record that over 41,000 allegations of rape were made to police in England and Wales last year.

The number of reports of rape made to the police has continued to rise in recent years – nearly doubling since 2013. In addition, a record number of cases were settled by being “administratively finalised” last year – meaning that police stopped their lines of inquiry either because prosecutors advised them to do so, or because the suspect in the case went missing. 1,300 rape investigations were concluded this way in 2017, marking a 72% increase from the previous year.

Sexual violence charity Rape Crisis has called the figures “deeply troubling,” whilst outgoing CPS Director of Prosecutions Alison Saunders maintained that charges were being brought “wherever possible,” based on the available evidence.

Record lows attributed to police and prosecutors

Whilst the growing gap between the number of rape incidents reported to police and the number of cases being charged is undeniably striking, analysts are unsure as to the leading cause factor for the steep drop in cases reaching trial.

Some critics say the record decline in charges is attributable to prosecutors becoming increasingly reluctant to bring charges for cases which they are not certain they will win, in a bid to improve their conviction rates. Just 31.6% of 18-24 year old men prosecuted on rape charges were convicted in 2017-18, with the conviction rate remaining at less than 50% for defendants aged 25-59 (45.6%). Others however suggest that police are the cause of the record lows, with fewer rape cases being referred by police for the CPS to consider.

In 2017, 599 fewer cases were referred than in 2016 – a drop which some attribute to extra demands regarding the disclosure of digital evidence and cuts to government funding.

In 2011, the CPS delegated application of the Full Code evidential test of rape cases to the police, following cuts to their government funding. The number of rape allegations being referred to the CPS has been in decline ever since.

Invasive police requests spark fears of silencing victims

Alongside issues with prosecution rates for incidents of rape which are reported to the police, new reports of highly invasive inquiry lines in some police forces have raised concerns that some victims may be dissuaded from seeking criminal justice. Media reports state that police in some areas of England and Wales are demanding almost unfettered access to highly personal records and data from rape victims before going forward with their cases.

Complainants in some areas are being asked to disclose health, school and university records, as well as counselling notes and all data from their electronic devices. In London, the Metropolitan Police demand access to complainants’ social media accounts, web browsing history, instant messages, location data, emails, deleted data, images, videos, audio files, apps, contacts, documents and MMS and SMS messages – which can then be disclosed to the CPS and the defence.

This is not a legal requirement and contrasts with other parts of the UK, where no such information is requested from complainants. The extensive demands for access to personal documents and data have raised fears that victims of sexual violence will be deterred from going to the police because of the intrusion into their lives.

Contact IBB Solicitors’ criminal defence experts today

We have one of the leading teams of defence solicitors in West London and the South East. If you are facing a serious criminal charge, you can contact a member of the IBB’s Criminal Defence team. Call us now in complete confidence on 0330 999 4999 for immediate emergency representation. Alternatively please email criminaldefence@ibblaw.co.uk.