Joint protocol launched as numbers of rape cases going to trial is expected to increase this year

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The way rape cases are handled is to be improved as more court trials are expected this year.

A joint protocol, created and implemented by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police, has been launched setting out how to deal with all rape cases from the initial complaint to after the verdict in a trial.

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The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, and Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, have written to all Chief Crown Prosecutors and Chief Constables to ensure the protocol is put into practise across England and Wales, as the number of rape cases going to trial this year is expected to be about 30% more than in 2012/13.

This means that there will be around 550 extra jury trials this year and 650 extra decisions to charge.

The protocol outlines the developments in both the CPS and Police’s approach to these cases which have been made over the past decade and is an important step in ensuring that both organisations are not only fully prepared and empowered to deal with the changing nature of this casework, but it will also provide greater consistency in the handling by both the CPS and the Police, including support provided to complainants.

In the letter, the DPP and AC Hewitt said that the new protocol is an important step in ensuring that the CPS and Police are not only fully prepared to deal with the changing nature of their casework, but can also provide greater consistency in the quality of handling rape cases.

It will also improve the service and support for victims while enabling both police and prosecutors to manage this challenging caseload in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Alison Saunders said: “Rape and sexual abuse against women, men and children can have a devastating impact and the vast majority of offences are still not even reported.

“A drop in cases referred to us was a real cause for concern when we identified it last year but we are now seeing a significant turnaround in cases coming to court. I have learned this not only from projected volumes of cases for this year but also from travelling around the country where both my staff and others in criminal justice are telling me this in clear terms - including that a significant proportion of Crown Court trials are now in relation to sexual offences.

“The number of rape cases going to trial this year is expected to be about 30% more than in 2012/13, which is in the region of 550 extra jury trials this year compared to two years ago, and approximately 650 extra decisions to charge. This is good news, but what comes along with it is the inevitable increased workload in the area. This shift in the nature of our work is something we have had to prepare for and I am determined to ensure our Rape and Serious Sexual Offence (RASSO) Units have the skilled lawyers and the essential tools they need to do the job and work effectively with specialist Police rape teams.

“That is why I have rolled out these units across England and Wales and why we have monitored them closely ever since – and this is why we and the Police have developed this updated, comprehensive protocol on handling these cases from start to finish, taking into account all the developments we have made over the past decade.”

National Policing Lead for Adult Sexual Offences, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said: “In order to build and maintain people’s confidence in how the police deal with rape and sexual offences and to continue to increase reporting, it is vital that all victims are treated with sensitivity and respect and that their allegations are investigated thoroughly.

“The protocol clearly lays out the steps that police and prosecutors should take to ensure a high quality investigation and build the best possible case. Consistently following this protocol across the country will ensure that we are doing our very best for victims of this uniquely damaging crime.”

The protocol forms a part of the joint CPS-ACPO Rape Action Plan, which the DPP and AC Martin Hewitt launched in 2014 and upon which real progress is being made in a number of areas. Progress will be outlined at the national Rape Conference in London on January 28.