CPS denies altering rape prosecution advice to boost conviction rates

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has denied changing its approach to rape prosecutions to improve conviction rates.

The Guardian newspaper reported that advice to take a proportion of “weak cases out of the system” was set out in training seminars by two senior figures in the CPS.

The CPS said the workshops had been run for prosecutors, but insisted it was “completely untrue” that they signalled a change of approach.

Reacting to the Guardian article, End Violence Against Women (EVAW) co-director Sarah Green said: “This is appalling and horrifying.”

She described what was allegedly said as “an assault on women’s ability to get justice for one of the most serious crimes on the book”, adding: “Real lives and serious sexual assaults are behind these numbers.”

The CPS said the workshops were undertaken alongside a range of other measures in recent months including the introduction of pre-charge case management panels in the most challenging cases, and training on reviewing and prosecuting rape and serious sexual offence cases involving vulnerable witnesses and young people.

The CPS added that rape cases are particularly challenging, as seen in the lower-than-average conviction rate – 57.6% for rape-flagged prosecutions in 2016-17 compared with 83.9% overall.

A CPS spokesman said: “The CPS runs ongoing training to ensure our prosecutors have access to the latest information on new and refreshed legal guidance, emerging trends and operational issues.

“These workshops were designed to support specialist prosecutors with decision-making in difficult cases.

“It is completely untrue that they signalled a change of approach. Every decision on whether to charge must be based on the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors.”

The CPS said it will be updating its joint rape action plan with the police and its legal guidance to ensure prosecutors have the right information and directions at hand when making charging decisions and prosecuting cases.

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