New rape case protocol launched
A predicted 30% surge in rape trials has prompted police and prosecutors to overhaul guidelines on handling cases.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police chiefs have launched a joint protocol setting out how to deal with all rape cases from the initial complaint to after the verdict in a trial.
The move comes as the number of rape cases going to trial this year is expected to be about 30% more than in 2012/13, meaning there will be around 550 extra jury trials this year and 650 extra decisions to charge.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders and Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt have written to all chief crown prosecutors and chief constables to ensure the protocol is embedded into practices across England and Wales.
Ms Saunders said: "Rape and sexual abuse against women, men and children can have a devastating impact and the vast majority of offences are still not even reported.
"A drop in cases referred to us was a real cause for concern when we identified it last year but we are now seeing a significant turnaround in cases coming to court.
"I have learned this not only from projected volumes of cases for this year but also from travelling around the country where both my staff and others in criminal justice are telling me this in clear terms - including that a significant proportion of Crown Court trials are now in relation to sexual offences.
"The number of rape cases going to trial this year is expected to be about 30% more than in 2012/13, which is in the region of 550 extra jury trials this year compared to two years ago, and approximately 650 extra decisions to charge.
"This is good news, but what comes along with it is the inevitable increased workload in the area."
The protocol forms a part of the joint CPS and Association of Chief Police Officers Rape Action Plan, which the DPP and Mr Hewitt launched last year.
National policing lead for adult sexual offences, Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, said: "In order to build and maintain people's confidence in how the police deal with rape and sexual offences and to continue to increase reporting, it is vital that all victims are treated with sensitivity and respect and that their allegations are investigated thoroughly.
"The protocol launched today clearly lays out the steps that police and prosecutors should take to ensure a high quality investigation and build the best possible case.
"Consistently following this protocol across the country will ensure that we are doing our very best for victims of this uniquely damaging crime."