CPS makes ‘significant strides’ against violence to women despite drop in police referrals

A drop in police referrals for domestic abuse has led to fewer incidences of violence against women and girls (VAWG) being dealt with in court despite sex crime prosecutions rising to a record level.

Oct 10, 2017

A drop in police referrals for domestic abuse has led to fewer incidences of violence against women and girls (VAWG) being dealt with in court despite sex crime prosecutions rising to a record level. New data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show that forces referred nearly 111,000 domestic abuse cases in 2016/17, six per cent fewer than the previous year. This decline has caused a seven per cent drop in domestic abuse prosecutions and a six per cent fall in convictions. The overall number of prosecutions for VAWG – which includes domestic abuse and sexual offences – also dropped from the highest level on record last year, because domestic abuse accounts for 83 per cent of the CPS’s work. However, the prosecution rate for sexual offences excluding rape rose by more than 12 per cent to a record 79.5 per cent. A government initiative is underway to address the drop in police referrals. Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said the CPS has made “significant strides” over the last ten years. She said: “Tackling VAWG offences is a priority for the CPS. We will continue to work with victims groups to do everything possible to ensure that victims have the confidence to report their experiences and, where appropriate, pursue prosecutions in the knowledge that they will be supported through the process.” The figures, released in the CPS’s tenth VAWG report on Tuesday (October 10), show prosecutions for VAWG offences now account for a fifth of the CPS’s caseload compared with just over seven per cent ten years ago. Since 2007/8, the number of VAWG convictions has also risen from 51,974 to 84,565, an increase of 63 per cent. However, VAWG referrals from police fell by 5.8 per cent last year, largely caused by the six per cent drop in domestic abuse referrals. The decline caused the VAWG prosecution rate to fall from 117,568 to 112,270, while the volume of convictions reduced by 3.1 per cent to 84,565. The overall conviction rate rose to more than 75 per cent – the highest level on record. This was supported by a 14 per cent increase in the number of convictions for sexual offences, which rose to 13,700 in 2016/17. Convictions for rape have risen 48 per cent since 2007/8 and other sexual offences have increased by 79 per cent. Over the last year alone, rape convictions increased by more than 11 per cent – and prosecutions by nearly 12 per cent. More than a third of the 13,700 people convicted for sexual offences had abused children. Child sex abuse prosecutions have risen by 82 per cent over the decade and convictions by 99 per cent, again the highest volume ever. The last year has also seen the number of prosecutions for sending private sexual images without consent – also known as ‘revenge porn’ – more than double from 206 to 465. Greater action has also been taken against other ‘new’ offences such as rape pornography and possession of a paedophile manual. The figures were welcomed by Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, who said they show how long-term efforts by the CPS seems to be “having a real effect”. Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe, national lead for domestic abuse, said: “As a service, we have improved our approach to tackling domestic abuse which has resulted in more arrests and prosecutions overall. “While pursuing perpetrators, we are also making better use of tools such as Domestic Violence Protection Orders in order to safeguard victims. “The slight fall in prosecutions this year is concerning and we are already working with CPS to understand why this has happened. We will continue to coordinate with partners across the criminal justice system to hone our joined-up approach to dealing with domestic abuse”.

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