Evidence from police body-worn videos could help to secure more prosecutions for domestic abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service said today, after its latest report on violence against women and girls highlighted a fall in the number of police referrals.

The 10th edition of the CPS's Violence against Women and Girls report, published today, states that the number of police referrals of domestic abuse defendants fell from 124,737 in 2015-16 to 117,444 in 2016-17. As a result, the number of completed prosecutions fell from 117,568 in 2015-16 to 112,270 the following year. Convictions fell from 87,275 in 2015-16 to 84,565 the following year.

The report reveals that a domestic abuse 'deep dive' exercise is assessing the use of police body worn videos to provide effective evidence to help prosecutions.

The report provides a case study where a defendant changed his not-guilty plea at the pre-trial review and was subsequently sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. A comment he made at the scene of the crime, 'I didn't wanna kill her but she provoked me', was captured on body-worn video produced in evidence. 

Prosecutions related to violence against women and girls now account for nearly a fifth (19.3%) of the CPS's caseload, up from 7.1% a decade ago, the report reveals. 

In 2016-17 the CPS prosecuted and convicted more defendants for sexual offences, including rape and child sexual abuse, than ever before. More than 13,500 defendants were convicted last year, 14% more than in the previous year. More than a third of the convictions were for sexual abuse of children. For the first time, the report reveals the ages of the rape victims. More than half of the victims were under the age of 24, nearly a fifth were aged between 14 and 17, and nearly one in 10 victims were under 13.

Section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 allows cross-examination to happen earlier than at the pre-trial stage. Section 28 was piloted for children under 16 at Crown courts in Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston. The CPS has backed extending the pilot to vulnerable witnesses under 18 and is seeking to extend it to cases involving rape, serious sexual assault and modern slavery.

Alison Saunders, director of public prosecutions (pictured), said offences involving violence against women and girls are a priority for the CPS. 'We will continue to work with victims' groups to do everything possible to ensure that victims have the confidence to report their experiences and, where appropriate, pursue prosecutions in the knowledge that they will be supported throughout the process,' she said in the report's foreword.