Boris Johnson won't set targets to boost number of rape prosecutions

Downing Street denies Boris Johnson is planning to set targets for police in bid to boost the number of rape prosecutions

  • A review of the criminal justice response to rape will be released in the autumn  
  • Figures showed rape convictions in England and Wales fell by a quarter in a year 
  • Mr Johnson said quotas and targets would undermine prosecutorial impartiality 

Boris Johnson will not set targets for police and prosecutors to improve record low rape prosecutions, Downing Street has said.

It follows reports that the Prime Minister’s crime and justice taskforce was considering goals for police to refer more cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, and for the CPS to prosecute and bring more rape cases to trial, according to the Guardian.

But Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: ‘Quotas or numerical targets would undermine prosecutorial impartiality where cases are individual by nature and require a specific set of considerations in each instance.

Boris Johnson will not set targets for police and prosecutors to improve record low rape prosecutions

‘We are determined to protect victims of rape and to give them the confidence that everything will be done to bring offenders to justice.

‘A review of the criminal justice response to rape and serious sexual offences was commissioned in March last year by the national Criminal Justice Board.

‘That review is due to report in the autumn and I wouldn’t want to pre-empt its findings or recommendations.’

Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird had suggested that it could have been an ‘excellent move’.

But Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition charity, said: ‘We urge great caution in target setting.

‘The setting of such targets needs deep thought and consultation, so as not to create yet another external objective which police and CPS yet again change their behaviour to meet, all the while still not focusing on victim needs and rights.’

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice charity, said targets ‘may place pressure’ on officers and prosecutors.

But she added: ‘The main change required is to reverse the CPS’s risk-averse approach and bring more prosecutions where the evidence supports it.’

CPS figures last month showed that rape convictions in England and Wales plummeted by a quarter in a year.

Just 1,439 alleged rapists were convicted of rape or lesser offences in 2019/20 – down 25% from 1,925 the previous year, according to CPS data.

Crown Prosecution Service figures last month showed rape convictions in England and Wales plummeted by a quarter in a year

The number of completed prosecutions also reached a record low, with 2,102 in 2019/20, compared with 3,034 in 2018/19, a fall of about 31%.

Dr Olivia Smith, a criminologist at Loughborough University who researches the justice system’s response to rape, said ‘it’s jumping the gun a little bit’ to impose targets without identifying the causes of the problem.

‘My concern is this target will lead to more acquittals at trial,’ she said.

‘Unless they actually deal with the myths and stereotypes that juries hold, the inappropriate use of evidence, unless we stop looking into whether someone has GCSEs when they’ve complained of rape, unless we stop doing things like that it’s not going to increase the conviction rate, it’s just going to increase the number of traumatised victims.’

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