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Fall in rape case referrals to CPS

Source BBC News@

A distressed young womanRape Crisis said it was worried victims of historic abuse cases were not being taken seriously

The number of rape allegations handed to prosecutors has hit a five-year low, despite a 30% increase in the number of rapes reported to police, an answer to a parliamentary question has revealed.

Police sent 5,404 cases to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2012/13 and received more than 17,000 reports.

It compared with 6,597 rape cases referred out of 13,096 reports in 2008/9 and 8,130 referrals in 2010/11.

Both the government and the shadow attorney general expressed concern.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said she was worried police officers were coming under pressure following budget cuts and might be "cutting corners" as a result.

'Worrying trend'

She said she had been in contact with rape victims' charities who said cases were being dropped that could have been sent to the CPS.

She said: "I think on the face of it this is a very worrying trend.

"The CPS is doing a lot of work on trying to improve the way in which they prosecute these cases and that is to be applauded but if they are not being given the cases to prosecute you have to ask why that is.

She added: "The police are under huge pressure to produce results, to get convictions. Targeting cases that are easier to get convictions on, I can understand that. I don't know whether that is the case or not but I worry that it may be."

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker said the government was concerned by the fall in number of CPS referrals.

He said it had already held a meeting with the director of public prosecutions and police leaders and agreed to establish a scrutiny panel to look at how forces were dealing with rape cases.

Mr Baker said: "I am determined to drive through the government's commitments to improve the criminal justice system's response to rape, to encourage more victims to seek help and to bring more perpetrators of these terrible crimes to justice and to push up level of convictions."

"The government is concerned by the falls in referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service."

'Historic abuse'

The charity, Rape Crisis, expressed fears the police might not be taking victims of so-called historic abuse cases seriously, despite the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal and subsequent police investigations

Spokeswoman Katie Russell said what appeared to be a decrease in justice for rape victims was "counter-intuitive" and undermined efforts by police forces to improve their handling of such cases.

She said: "We are certainly across the country seeing anecdotally a rise in particularly survivors of what is sometimes referred to as historic abuse coming forward, either to the police or to support agencies like Rape Crisis.

"If that's translating into reduced referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service obviously our fear would be that so-called historical cases and particularly cases where adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse come forward are not being handled as well or sufficiently or taken as seriously as they might be."

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