Review includes plans to allow video evidence from rape victims to help improve conviction rates

Rape victims 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 Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and Home Secretary Priti Patel, aiming to reduce stress on victims.

The Government review to be unveiled next month is considering a plan for victims 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 just 1,925 convictions for rape or an alternative lesser offence during the financial year 2018-19, down from 2,635 in the previous 12 months – a drop of 26.9%.

The figure dropped another 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 to 3,034 in 2018/19, a fall of around 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.

But the Court of Appeal ruled in March 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”.

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 now handling on average around 27 such cases – as opposed to 15 prior to the outbreak, the Commons Justice Committee was told in March.

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