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Rape Review progress: “cause for cautious optimism”

18 months after the government’s rape review, an update published today has outlined developments taken across the criminal justice system to improve the handling of rape cases.

There is reason for “cautious optimism” as steady progress is being made in the handling of rape cases, the government has said today.

It comes as a separate report published today pointed to evidence of victim blaming in forces, a lack of specialist knowledge among investigators and an “overwhelming” level of burnout of officers in RASSO departments.

The progress report acknowledged that huge challenges remain - not least of which, it said, are the outstanding court backlogs and victim attrition rates.

It’s something that unsurprisingly the barrister strikes have worsened. A positive trend was beginning to emerge with a reduction of 60,600 outstanding crown court cases in June 2021 to 57,900 cases in March 2022.

In September, however, this had jumped to 62,500 (74,587 defendants). Pre-pandemic figures (31 March 2020) stood at 41,045.

In spite of this, today’s update demonstrates that adult rape convictions have increased by 65% over the past year and are now 41% higher than pre-pandemic. It's alongside increases in referrals, charges and numbers of cases reaching court.

The report further outlined support measures that have been put in place since the original review. Victim Support funding is set to rise to £192m by 2024/25 and the number of ISVAs and IDVAs to over 1,000.

Last week, a 24/7 support line was launched and a further £4m has been dedicated to improving technology that can speed up examination of mobile phones.

The government has said they remain on track to meet their target of no victim being without their phone for more than 24 hours by the end of this Parliament. While the pledge to more than double the number of cases reaching court is “within reach”.

A joint foreword, by Justice Secretary Dominic Raab and victims and sentencing minister Ed Argar reads:” We are restless to go further and faster for rape victims. Huge challenges remain, but this progress shows that our eight chosen levers are making a difference.

“We are determined to press ahead: so that more woman, girls and other victims of rape get the justice they deserve – and more rapists are taken off our streets.”

Kirsty Brimelow KC, chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “It is encouraging that more cases are reaching court.

“However, this is a basic and complainants are waiting years for trials.”

She added that there are not enough barristers to prosecute in trials and quadrupling funding for support is “senseless” without investing to ensure there are enough barristers.

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