Hertfordshire: CPS brings charges in just over three per cent of recorded rapes
PUBLISHED: 17:30 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:32 29 August 2019
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) brought charges in just over three per cent of recorded rapes last year in Hertfordshire.
A total of 841 rapes were reported to Herts police and recorded as crimes between 2017 and 2018 (date ending March 31, 2018) but the CPS - which prosecutes criminal cases - was able to charge or bring summons for only 27 of those cases.
Data from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Service's (HMICFRS), which released the data today, shows mostly this is due to the victim in the case not wanting to pursue the charge.
Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson from Herts police said: "Improvements to our joint processes have since been implemented. However, we recognise that more needs to be done to support victims in some of the most challenging and complex cases in order to bring about prosecutions where the evidence meets the necessary thresholds."
The data also shows there has been an overall trend of decreasing charge rates for rape nationally. The overall charge rate has decreased compared to the previous year, from 6.8 per cent to 4.2 per cent.
"Nationally, there has been a reduction in referrals and convictions and there is a cross-government review ongoing," Mr Jephson added. "We welcome this work and look forward to considering any recommendations."
For the year 2016/17, there was a total of 660 police-recorded rapes in Herfordshire and the CPS brought charges or summons for 3.03 per cent of these case. The rate in 2015/16 was higher at 4.38 per cent.
Responding to the drop in charge rates, the CPS said it was "a great cause of concern" and are taking part in a system wide review to scrutinise how cases are handled.
"There are a number of factors which we believe have contributed to the drop in rape charges, including a significant fall in the volume of referrals from the police," a CPS spokesman said in a statement.
"There has also been an increase in the number and proportion of cases where the police have not responded to either early investigative advice or requests for more information."
During the same period Herts police referred 56 cases, 6.7 per cent of cases it recorded as rape, to the CPS.
Asst Ch Con Jephson said: "We are absolutely committed to providing the best possible service to all victims of rape and we will seek to bring offenders to justice whenever possible.
"Referral rates are just one part of an end to end process that involves many stages. Early this year we recognised that the referral rate was low and worked with the CPS to understand the reasons why that might be the case.
"Improvements to our joint processes have since been implemented. However, we recognise that more needs to be done to support victims in some of the most challenging and complex cases in order to bring about prosecutions where the evidence meets the necessary thresholds.
"Throughout the period of austerity, Hertfordshire Constabulary did not reduce the number of investigators in our specialist sexual offences investigation team (SOIT), in fact it is an area where we have invested in additional resources such is our commitment in this area of policing."
The CPS also maintains it needs to weigh up the evidence and decides to charge based on this.
"We have also seen an increase in the volume of digital data and the analysis of evidence gathered by following reasonable lines of enquiry and this aspect means that it takes more time to investigate," a spokesman said.
"There also has been an increase in the number of pre-charge consultations between police and prosecutors. This can result in charging decisions taking longer, but should mean stronger cases are taken to court."
The CPS is taking a review of how it prosecutes rape and sexual offences with the assistance of the police, the Ministry of Justice, NHS England, NHS professionals, Rape Crisis England and Wales, The Survivors Trust and The Marie Collins Foundation, as well as other voluntary sector providers.
Herts police encourages anyone who is victim of a sexual assault to report it, either directly to police - on 101 - or to Herts Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) for practical and emotional support.
To contact Herts SARC, call the 24/7 helpline on 0808 178 4448, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit hertssarc.org.