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Overhaul of criminal justice system delivers ‘significant improvement’ for rape victims

Rape victims are being better supported across the criminal justice system two years on from the landmark End to End Rape Review, according to the Ministry of Justice.

This is due to progress in delivering the government’s action plan to transform the response to rape and put more perpetrators behind bars.

The progress report published on Monday 10th July shows the government has already met two of the three key ambitions in the Rape Review ahead of schedule – restoring the number of police referrals and cases reaching court to 2016 levels – and is on track to exceed all three ambitions before the end of this parliament.

It comes as all 43 police forces across England and Wales, and all rape prosecutors across the country, begin implementing a new approach to dealing with rape and other serious sexual offences, ensuring forces conduct thorough investigations which put the focus on the suspect and centre the rights and needs of victims.

Known as Operation Soteria and piloted in 19 police forces and nine Crown Prosecution Areas already, the programme brings together police forces with academics, using evidence and new insight to enable forces and prosecutors to transform their response to rape and serious sexual offences.

There are early signs of improvements in the police forces and CPS Areas already participating in the Operation Soteria programme. All five pathfinder forces have seen an increase in the number of cases being referred to the CPS – more than doubling in West Midlands Police and Durham.

The number of cases being prosecuted by the CPS from Avon and Somerset have more than tripled, and all pathfinder forces have seen a reduction in the average days taken for a charge outcome to be assigned – with South Wales seeing a reduction of almost 300 days in the latest quarter.

And to further improve the response to rape, 2,000 extra police investigators will be specially trained in rape and sexual offences by April 2024. It will also be compulsory for new recruits to undertake rape and sexual offences training, which will also be rolled out to all existing first responders.

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Alex Chalk KC, said:

“Rape and sexual violence are horrific crimes that can impact victims for the rest of their lives. That’s why we launched an action plan in the 2021 Rape Review to drive up prosecutions.

We’ve made significant progress, hitting two of our Rape Review ambitions ahead of schedule, and there are more rape cases before the courts today than in 2010.

Now we are going further, extending our action plan with more support for victims, encouraging survivors to come forward and see justice done.”

The Home Office, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and College of Policing Unit will oversee the implementation of the new national model, supported by the College of Policing and the government will be consulting with police leaders on the effectiveness of dedicated rape investigation units in all police forces.

The Victims and Prisoner Bill will also provide additional support for all victims, including rape victims, by giving ministers powers to direct the inspection of justice agencies, such as the police and courts, that are failing victims.

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