To ask the Attorney General, how many cases of alleged rape were referred to the CPS in each year since 2015-16, and in how many of those cases the CPS pressed charges in each of those years; and what the (a) average, (b) shortest and (c) longest period of time between referral and charging was for those cases.
Rape is a serious sexual offence which has a profound impact on victims. The CPS works closely with the Police to ensure that cases are thoroughly investigated before charges are brought because it is in the interests of both victims and perpetrators that cases do not collapse mid-trial.
Cases involving rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most challenging, complex cases that the CPS deals with. They involve very little corroborative evidence in comparison with other cases, and this can result them taking longer to progress through the system. However, the CPS recognises that these offences are devastating crimes that have a significant impact on victims.
The CPS maintains a record of the average number of days taken from referral through to a decision to charge. This data can be seen at annex A. However data is not held on the shortest or longest number of days from submission of a rape case by the police to the CPS through to the date of the decision to charge.
There are a number of reasons for the steady increase in the average number of days and average number of consultations per case since 2015/16. Police are now more regularly encouraged to seek ‘early investigative advice’ to help determine what evidence is required for charge more often. Early investigative advice helps to ensure that cases are thoroughly investigated and the evidence to be brought before the court is strong. As a result, the CPS is more often involved at an earlier stage in proceedings which impacts on the average number of consultations and overall timeliness.
There has also been an increase in the complexity of rape cases investigated by the police. Investigations often involve large amounts of electronic material (social media, emails, text messages, video and photographs) which needs to be reviewed by prosecutors before a charging decision can be made. This also impacts on the average number of consultations and timeliness of the pre-charge stage of the case.