Rape cases plagued by ‘finger pointing’ and ‘blame culture’ between police and CPS – watchdog

The criminal justice system’s response to rape allegations is plagued by a "blame culture" and "finger pointing" between police and prosecutors, the watchdog has found.

There are "deep divisions" and "poor communication" between police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) around rape prosecutions and convictions, the new report said.

It comes after the government’s rape review, which apologised for "failing" victims and revealed a 62% fall in prosecutions and 47% drop in convictions over the past five years.

The report, carried out by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), found that there are "continuing underlying tensions" between the two agencies.

It noted a "desire on both sides to blame the other for low charge and conviction rates".

The report concluded: "Until this blame culture is eradicated, a real shift in attitudes seems unachievable."

Other examples of failings included an insistence on communicating by email for so-called "case audit purposes", which led to "frustration" between police and prosecutors and a "barrier to effective communication".

The report said both sides are not putting victims "at the heart of building strong cases" and there is a lack of "focus, clarity and commitment" to getting justice.

It recommended a fundamental change in how the police and CPS work together and the offer of "high-quality and consistent wrap-around care for those who report rape".

The inspectorates also called for a more effective use of funding.

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Wendy Williams, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary did note some "excellent examples" of both sides trying to improve relations at national and local level in some areas.

But she and her colleague Anthony Rogers, deputy chief inspector at HMCPSI, added: "Successful cases rely on police and prosecutors working as a team.

"They must stop this finger pointing and start working together to ensure victims receive better support and justice is served."

The most recent CPS figures for 2019-20 showed that there were an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape that year, but only 1.6% of offences result in someone being charged.

Inspectors carried out 39 interviews, 29 focus groups and reviewed more than 500 case files to carry out their report.

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