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Police and CPS collaboration to drive up performance on rape and serious sexual offences

25 Jan 2021

Police and CPS collaboration to drive up performance on rape and serious sexual offences: Sarah-22

Efforts to reduce the disparity between the number of rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) cases being reported and those going to court have taken a step forward, as a blueprint to drive even closer working between police and prosecutors has been published today.  

The Joint National Action Plan between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) sets out a wide-ranging plan for greater collaboration to improve the response to RASSO cases. It is designed to ensure victims have confidence in the criminal justice system and receive the best possible support and care whilst investigations and prosecutions take place. 

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Rape, Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew, said: 

“We have been working hard to improve the outcomes for victims of rape and serious sexual assaults for some time now. Everyone in policing knows that we must bring more offenders to justice and improve the service given to survivors of this terrible crime. 

“Together with the Crown Prosecution Service we are already making progress in implementing this joint action plan. We are improving the expertise of officers, making sure we gather strong evidence from the outset, tackling myths and stereotypes about rape and working closely with Independent Sexual Violence Advisors so we can support victims in the best way possible.  

“Changing the system and getting justice for more victims won’t happen overnight but I am confident we are moving at speed in the right direction and already making improvements. I will continue to meet regularly with charities, campaigners and victims’ groups and act on their feedback when possible.” 

Sue Hemming, Director of Legal Services at the CPS, said:  

“Rape and serious sexual offences are incredibly traumatic and it’s vital we are fair, effective, informed and agile in our response. Key to this is a strong relationship between police and prosecutors.  

“Extensive work is already underway to make improvements for victims of these awful crimes who deserve a criminal justice system they can have full confidence in, but we know there is more to do. 

“This joint plan sets out our approach for the next three years, and we will continuously review the actions in light of any new challenges that may emerge to ensure we are both doing everything we can to deliver justice.” 

The three-year action plan has been drawn up in close collaboration between CPS and the NPCC to make sure both police and prosecutors are confident, capable and well trained with the specialist knowledge, skills and insight needed to respond effectively to serious sexual offences. 

The actions in the plan fall under the following five themes: 

  • Supporting victims through an improved understanding of the impact of trauma, as well as better communication with victims so they understand the process and what to expect in a way that enables them to give their best evidence. 
  • Casework quality addressing any issues relating to casework quality and progression to ensure the relationship between police and prosecutors is timely, effective and geared towards building the strongest case from the outset. 
  • Right to privacy balancing the needs of an investigation and a fair trial with the right to victim’s and witness’s right to privacy through work on digital capability and disclosure.  
  • Training supporting our people through training, development, structure and supporting their wellbeing to ensure they have the expertise and capacity to deliver justice. 
  • Collaboration working openly, collaboratively and being accountable through stakeholder engagement to ensure that the action plan and its delivery is fit for purpose. 

The joint action plan has been formally launched today after feedback from stakeholders. Dedicated project groups will take forward work to drive the agreed improvements and, locally, regional action plans will be implemented reflecting these  priorities.  

This work will then be reviewed by the CPS and police bi-annually to incorporate any new work and further findings from the cross-government review into rape. A public update on progress will be provided to demonstrate transparency in the joint RASSO approach.  

The Joint National Action Plan builds on extensive work across England and Wales, where police and CPS have joined forces to roll out significant changes to shared working practices. Local initiatives to improve the number of cases taken forward, reduce delays in charging decisions and increase charges for offenders of rape and serious sexual assault are achieving positive results.   

In the South East of England a joint CPS and police Rape Improvement Group has been running for a year with a focus on much earlier advice, triage clinics to discuss challenging cases and scrutiny panels for decisions where no action is taken. These changes have seen the South East considering an additional 225 cases and increased the proportion of cases referred to South East being charged. 

Meanwhile the North East has seen a huge reduction in requests for further information, reducing delays in making a charging decision, as a result of their focus on better police and CPS working. This has included establishing single points of contact on RASSO cases to get an immediate resolution on any file quality issues, as well as regular RASSO clinics to agree investigation strategy and provide advice early on.  

As part of a collective drive to improve the charging rates for these offences, analysis has been carried out to understand which local initiatives have been most effective in order to roll these out across the country.  

Progress in embedding these new changes will be monitored by the new Joint Operational Improvement Board. The board, a body led by leaders from CPS, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing has specific responsibility for effective joint working in relation to disclosure, case progression and Rape and Serious and Sexual Offences (RASSO). This was previously called the National Disclosure Improvement Board until the remit was expanded last month.    

The board has overseen a major shift in joint CPS and Police working practices and priorities in recent years and great strides have been made in disclosure management. We have delivered mass training to build expertise, encouraged early discussion on disclosure issues and introduced close monitoring to track performance 

The board is now working on a joint National Case Progression Commitment. This formalises a joint approach to identifying potential issues and finding practical solutions so action can be taken to drive improvements. This is expected to be finalised in the new year. 

The full action plan can be found here.