Tuesday, August 3, 2021
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Legal challenge to Crown Prosecution Service handling of rape cases fails


A legal challenge to CPS handling of rape prosecutions when the numbers of cases going to court plunged to record low levels has been dismissed by judges.

They tied the alleged change in approach to a 45 per cent drop in rape cases being charged, arguing CPS lawyers in England and Wales may have been left confused on the threshold for bringing a prosecution.

But Court of Appeal judges today dismissed a judicial review bid, finding the Director of Public Prosecutions had acted lawfully in clarifying the approach to charging decisions.

The Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) and End Violence Against Women (EVAW) argued prosecutors may have been pushed away from applying a “merits-based approach” (MBA) to rape allegations, fearful of bringing prosecutions that ultimately failed and reduced their conviction rates.

But the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett of Maldon, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde and Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing, dismissed the argument and analysis, saying then-DPP Alison Saunders had acted to clarify the decision-making process.

“The illegality is said to be that prosecutors would fail to apply the full Code test”, they said in today’s ruling. This ground fails on the facts.

“It is linked to the assertion that the specialist RASSO prosecutors were left in a state of confusion. We reject the submission that the decision created any risk of systemic illegality.

“Properly analysed, the decision was a decision to remove unhelpful references to the MBA and to emphasise the primacy of the full Code test.

“We are unable to accept that it gave rise to any risk that prosecutors would wrongly apply the bookmaker’s approach to decision making, or otherwise fail to apply the full Code test.”


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