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Local News

Rape has been ‘effectively decriminalised’, experts warn, with convictions in Yorkshire at record low

today23/08/2021

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Rape convictions fell to a record low in Yorkshire during the pandemic amid claims the crime has been “effectively decriminalised” – with cases taking a year on average before prosecutors decide whether to charge.

Just 100 rapists were convicted in Yorkshire in the year up to March 2021 – down from 128 the year before, and less than half the 270 in 2017/18. It is also the lowest number seen since records began in 2009/10.

On top of this, figures show just three per cent of all reports of rapes end up in court, according to new Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data.

Prosecutors say the Covid pandemic has squeezed the criminal justice system, increasing caseloads and backlogs at courts.

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But the Government’s victims’ commissioner Dame Vera Baird said sexual assault survivors have been “comprehensively failed” by the system over the past five years, with a “seismic collapse” in prosecutions during the pandemic.

In South Yorkshire it took an average of 392 days for the CPS to decide whether to charge a rape suspect once the case was referred to them in the year up to March 2021.

Meanwhile in West Yorkshire prosecutors took an average of 387 days, while in North Yorkshire the CPS reported a 366-day average.

West Yorkshire’s deputy mayor for policing and crime Alison Lowe said the charge rate in the county is above the national average but “still too low”.

“Confidence in the criminal justice system is fundamentally important in encouraging victims of this truly awful crime to come forward,” she said.

“It is crucial that they see positive outcomes increasing.”

The Mayor of West Yorkshire‘s office recently launched a call for evidence on the safety of women and girls to shape West Yorkshire Police‘s approach for the next three years.

The CPS has previously blamed the drop in prosecutions on a reduction in police referrals, while the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it has become harder to achieve the standard of evidence required to charge a suspect and get the case to court.

Both sides have been accused of playing a blame game in a recent review by police and CPS watchdogs, which called for an urgent shift in the way rape cases are investigated.

“We have witnessed a seismic collapse in rape charging and prosecutions. Last year, I warned that we were witnessing the effective decriminalisation of rape,” wrote victims’ commissioner Dame Vera in her recent annual report.

“Nothing in the past year has swayed me from that perspective. The uncomfortable truth is that if you are raped in Britain today, your chances of seeing justice are slim.

“It is clear we are in a crisis and this crisis has been allowed to fester.”

CPS director Sue Hemming admitted “far too few victims” see their cases reach court and pledged to collaborate closely with the police and tackle “blame culture”.

Meanwhile National Police Chiefs’ Council rape lead Temporary Chief Constable Sarah Crew said officers will work with prosecutors “from the get-go”, which should lead to faster charging and prevent victims losing confidence in the system.

The figures also come on the heels of the Government’s long-awaited violence against women and girls strategy after 180,000 people responded to a consultation on women’s safety – many of them after the murder of Sarah Everard in March.

Among other measures proposed in the strategy, the Ministry of Justice will commission a 24-hour rape and sexual assault helpline.

But the End Violence Against Women Coalition said it is concerned the actions fall short on ambition and funding.

“To make this a strategy that delivers change there must be accountability and the right level of funding that follows all aspects of the work,” said director Andrea Simon.

“There is a distinct lack of resourcing here that cannot be ignored.”

If you live in West Yorkshire and want to submit evidence to the Mayor’s consultation on safety for women and girls, email consultation.pc@westyorks-ca.gov.uk or call 0113 348 1740 by September 17.

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Written by: Rother Radio News


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today23/08/2021