Justice system risks creating serial rapists

The criminal justice system is putting more people at risk, the commissioner has warned
The criminal justice system is putting more people at risk, the commissioner has warned

The criminal justice system is putting more people at risk by “failing to tackle potential serial rapists”, the Victims’ Commissioner has warned.

Dame Vera Baird expressed the concerns as official figures showed that reports of rape are on the increase but the number of charges being brought against attackers has fallen.

The overall number of reported rapes rose by almost 13,000 to 54,045 in 2017/18, compared with 41,186 the previous year. Some 11,913 attacks were not recorded as crimes, an increase from 8,624 the year before.

The overall charge rate has fallen in the same period from 6.8 to 4.2 per cent, according to data recorded by public bodies which has been gathered by the Rape Monitoring Group (RMG) and published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

The number of cases referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision has fallen slightly, from 6,606 to 6,012.

Fewer suspects were found guilty - 1,062 compared with 1,350 the previous year.

Dame Vera said the Government needs to “act quickly” in its review of how rape complaints are handled to make sure victims receive “the justice they deserve”.

“The criminal justice system is letting down current victims and creating new victims by failing to tackle potential serial rapists,” she said.

“Rape victims are being badly let down by the criminal justice system. More complainants are coming forward, but fewer cases are being prosecuted and only one in every 50 cases is resulting in a conviction. How can this be justice?

“These figures show that perpetrators can act without fear of being held to account.

“Many will go on to commit further offences and will only stop when caught.

“These figures not only highlight how we are letting down existing victims, but how we are creating future victims.

“We know that nearly four in five victims of sexual assault choose not to report the crimes committed against them.

“How can we ever give these victims the confidence to report when so few cases ever secure a conviction?

“We need to understand the reasons behind this failure. It is in part down to the treatment of complainants by police and prosecutors; for example, failing to update them on investigations or making intrusive and disproportionate demands on their personal data.

"We also know that the treatment of complainants in the courtroom can cause trauma and distress.”

The RMG published the figures to show how cases of rape were dealt with at all stages of the criminal justice system in 2017/18.