On 24 February 2022, the Crown Prosecution Service published their Rape Strategy update.
While it may be easy to imagine that updates such as these have no effect on your particular case, if you are being investigated for, or charged with rape, it is in fact likely that this will have an impact.
The introduction to this update begins with this ominous line: “Too few rape victims are seeing justice done.”
What does that mean?
It means, simply, that the CPS are not securing enough charges or convictions of people charged with rape. It means that when the prosecuting authority review the police file and decide whether a false rape allegation against you should proceed to court or not, they will do so within the context of an organisation that believes more rape allegations need to win – and a win for them means a conviction for you.
In July 2020, the CPS published a five-year strategy focused on improving every aspect of how they manage rape and other serious sexual offences prosecutions. That strategy was built as a result of their perceived failure to secure enough RASSO (Rape and Serious Sexual Offences) convictions.
As early as 2015, Alison Saunders made the public declaration that “Sexual consent is simple”, when any person who has engaged in sexual activity will tell you it’s anything but.
To this day, police forces across England and Wales continue to refer to the person making allegations of sexual offences as the victim, despite clear and frequent requirements that they must not do this. The term that should be used is complainant, which makes it clear that the person has made a complaint, without indicating that the complaint itself is enough to decide that they are a victim.
If there is a victim, there is a crime, and there is a perpetrator. In these scenarios, if there is a victim, there is a rapist.
All of these factors make a very stark reality clear – the police and CPS are not pursuing rape allegations without a significant amount of pressure to move forward and secure convictions.
The Rape Strategy update has a very clear ambition. It specifically says so:
The CPS is determined to increase significantly the number of rape cases we bring to court, year on year.
The launch of Operation Soteria sees the CPS focus on specifics to allow them to charge more rape cases, more quickly. This programme, currently being delivered in five CPS and police areas, involves an enhanced partnership between the police and CPS, allowing the early advice to police with the aim of enabling him to build stronger cases.
Operation Soteria is hoped to increase the number, timeliness and quality of police referrals to the CPS, meaning that more rape and serious sexual offence cases are charged and proceed to court.
All of this sounds good in theory, except that language is important, and the language used in these strategy update documents is focused almost exclusively on increasing the amount of rape prosecutions, not on undertaking thorough investigations that will allow the correct charging decisions to be made.
In our experience, as national sexual defence solicitors, is that the police often investigate only in line with the words of the complainant. This shouldn’t be a surprise. They have already referred to her as the victim, and their job all too often is obviously about gathering evidence for a crime that they automatically believe has happened.
Why does this matter?
If you find yourself investigated for rape, you may have helpful information that could show the police that the allegation is false. You may even alert the police officers to this, and then sit back and trust that they will follow up on your leads just as efficiently as they will follow up on anything the complainant raises. Imagine your surprise when, a year or two later, you are advised that you are being charged with a serious sexual offence, and you realise that the police made no attempts to gather the evidence that would prove your innocence.
Rape and sexual offences were already the most awful crimes to be accused of. That has long been the case. They are allegations that see people lose their jobs and reputations, and threaten relationships with their children. The least that can be offered to a person falsely accused of such an offence is a fair and thorough investigation, and yet every effort made by the CPS in recent years makes that a more unlikely thing to hope for.
Instead, the police and CPS are focused on charging more and more people, and then working to secure convictions. This is their primary focus, and ensuring that only the right people are charged and convicted seems far too low on their list of priorities.
What can you do about it?
It is more vital than ever that you secure specialist, pro-active representation if you are being investigated for, or charged with, rape or a serious sexual offence. Forrest Williams solicitors are specialists in this field, and can manage your case throughout the proceedings. To discuss your case, call our expert team on 01623 397200.