The director of public prosecutions has today condemned 'inaccurate' media coverage of the Crown Prosecution Service's approach to rape cases, stressing that prosecutions and convictions have significantly increased.
In a letter published by The Telegraph and Daily Mail, Alison Saunders says the newspapers 'assert incorrectly that evidence of previous troubling behaviour by defendants will in future be used routinely in the prosecution of rape cases'. The papers 'appear to conflate our proposed approach to two quite different forms of sexual offending', Saunders suggests.
'Yes, where an offence takes place in the context of a relationship, it is appropriate for investigators to look at longer-term patterns of behaviour which may add weight to the prosecution case,' Saunders explains. This approach was given a legal basis in relation to domestic abuse when section 76 of the Serious Crime Act came into force in December 2015.
Saunders continues: 'There is no intention on the part of the Crown Prosecution Service to apply this to all rape cases. Rather, in my interview with the Evening Standard, upon which your article was based, I confirmed that we intend to make better use of evidence such as CCTV, social media posts and witness statements to ensure we know everything possible about alleged rapes involving victims affected by alcohol or drugs.
'That is a very different thing and would focus only on the period around the attack. As always, if there is similar offending or behaviour in the past we may seek to use this under the bad character provisions.'
The CPS's latest annual report shows that offences involving alleged violence against women and girls account for almost a fifth of the CPS's overall caseload. A forthcoming annual Violence Against Women and Girls report will confirm 'another large rise' in rape prosecutions and convictions, Saunders said today.
'It is crucial that we get our approach right. It is equally crucial that media report the issue accurately in order to inform, rather than hinder, sensible public debate,' she concludes.
@cpsuk14 August 2017