Court rejects challenge to rape prosecution policy
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Marc Bloomfield
The Court of Appeal has dismissed a legal challenge to the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS’s) policy on prosecuting serious sexual offences cases (R (End Violence Against Women Coalition) v Director of Public Prosecutions [2021] EWCA Civ 350, 15 March 2021).
End Violence Against Women (EVAW), a coalition of women’s organisations, brought the case after a dramatic fall in prosecutions for rape. EVAW reports that in 2019/20 less than three per cent of cases reported to the police went on be prosecuted. It argued that, in 2017, a switch by prosecutors from what was known as a ‘merits-based approach’ on deciding whether to pursue cases, to one based on conviction targets and other measures, had led to a collapse in the number of prosecutions for rape.
Andrea Simon, director of EVAW, said while they were ‘deeply disappointed at this outcome’ the coalition ‘had no regrets about holding institutions accountable for the effective decriminalisation of rape’. She argued that the court had ‘given the CPS the benefit of the doubt’ but there was a lack of ‘alternative answers to why rape prosecutions have collapsed’. EVAW is seeking permission to appeal the judgment.
Responding to the judgment, the director of public prosecutions, Max Hill QC, said that the Court of Appeal had confirmed that ‘the CPS was neither irrational nor unlawful in its approach to updating guidance for prosecutors, and that there was no change of approach in the way the CPS prosecutes rape cases’.
A crowdfunding appeal launched by EVAW has raised over £115,000 to cover the costs of the case.

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