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End-to-End Rape Review: its impact on rape and sexual assault cases

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The dramatic decline in rape prosecutions since 2016 prompted the Government to launch a review in 2019 to look at how the criminal justice system deals with cases of serious sexual offences. Its findings, published in the 2021 End-to-End Rape Review, concluded that victims in rape cases are being failed. The report sought to understand why the system is failing complainants of rape and sexual offences and what changes are required to ‘right this wrong’.

In response, the Government set out an action plan while boosting funding by £176 million to drive systematic and cultural change. The Government aims to give complainants of serious sexual offences justice by improving how investigations are conducted, cases prepared, and perpetrators are dealt with by the courts.

In summary, the Government seeks to:

  • Increase the number of cases progressing through the system so more cases get to court, and more convictions are delivered.
  • Increase victim engagement at each stage of the process.
  • Ensure complex cases are not deprioritised. The outcome of cases will be monitored to guarantee more complex or historical cases are not dropped.
  • High quality cases referred by the police to the CPS.
  • Increase public confidence in decisions made by the CPS based on the evidence and material available and made in good time.
  • Increase the number of early guilty pleas by improving the quality of investigations. This is with the aim of reducing the complainant’s time spent waiting for an outcome in their case and striving to avoid the challenges of going to court.
  • Ensuring the Defendant’s right to a fair trial is maintained throughout the court process.

What will the police do?

Adopt an investigatory approach and ensure there is an early and robust assessment of the suspect’s behaviour. This includes introducing a 24-hour timeframe during which officers can, if granted permission, access the mobile phones of complainants and witnesses. Any digital material requested must be limited to what is necessary and proportionate to allow reasonable lines of investigation. Previously, police officers could obtain access and extract data from the electronic devices of complainant’s and witnesses, allowing them to access call data, messages and internet browsing history.

What will the CPS do?

Improve how rape cases are dealt with, increasing the number of prosecutions, and restoring the confidence of complainants by establishing a better process to provide advice during the early stages of an investigation. The CPS will also update legal guidance to address rape myths and stereotypes with prosecutors being trained to comply with this guidance.

What will the police and CPS do together?

Establish the Joint National Action Plan (JNAP) , comprised of senior officers and officials from the police and CPS, designed to improve how these cases are dealt with. They aim to establish a culture of working together to increase support for complainants in cases of rape and sexual assault with the purpose of enabling more early guilty pleas as defendant’s realise that a conviction is likely.

What will happen in the courts?

Ensure that they abide by the principle of a fair trial while making sure that the experience for complainants throughout the court process is managed with care and consideration. The court will also provide complainants with clear communication and ensure that complainants can engage with the special measures available.

In relation to evidence, only evidence about the complainant that is crucial to the case will be disclosed in court to ensure that their credibility is not undermined by pre-conceptions.

How will this impact the sentencing of offenders?

In 2020, the Government introduced laws to ensure that serious sexual and violent offenders are sentenced to a standard determinate sentence of more than 7 years and serve two thirds of their sentence in prison. The report stated that the average sentence for rape is just under 10 years. These changes mean that instead of a convicted offender being released after 5 years, they could serve almost 7 years imprisonment.

In April 2022, the Government enacted the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The Bill abolishes automatic halfway release for certain serious offenders, including those convicted of rape. It ensures that serious violent or sexual offenders receiving a Standard Determinate Sentence (SDS) of between 4 and 7 years will be required to serve two thirds of their sentence in custody instead of half. In turn, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 provisions will come into force in the coming months.

How can we help?

Being charged of a sexual offence can have serious consequences on an individual’s career, reputation, livelihood, and even liberty. It is critical that those charged with a sexual offence have access to legal representation from experienced defence lawyers. Whether you have been accused of a sexual offence, arrested, charged, released on bail or under investigation, we can act in your defence to ensure your rights and interests are protected, and help you achieve the most favourable outcome possible in the circumstances. Our sexual offence lawyers can provide 24-hour legal advice across the country.

For a free initial consultation on your legal position and the available options, contact our local offices in London, Birmingham or Manchester.

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