The Metropolitan Police Service and Crown Prosecution Service have today, Monday, 9 June, announced the commission of an independent review into how both agencies investigate and prosecute allegations of rape.
Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, have appointed Dame Elish Angiolini to conduct a victim-centred review which will help both organisations to build on the improvements made in rape handling since the 2010 Stern Review.
With direct experience in this area – having carried out a similar review in Scotland which led to the creation of Europe’s first specialist national sex crimes unit – Dame Elish will examine how the MPS and CPS provide support to victims, investigate offences and bring cases to court.
The review, to be published at the end of February 2015, will be looking to achieve a series of recommendations based on the following key areas:
- An examination and evaluation of MPS and CPS current working practices in the area of rape investigation to include performance, standard operating procedures, staffing levels, workloads, and victim feedback.
- A review of 80 sample cases with various outcomes; at both investigative and prosecution stages. This will allow for a detailed examination of a variety of issues, including any attitudinal barriers and the level of support provided to victims.
- Consultation with victims; a panel of experts (such as third sector organisations, NHS and other stakeholders); and practitioners (police, prosecutors, judiciary and other partners) in relation to those issues highlighted in the review.
The review forms one strand of the wider national action plan announced last week by National Policing Lead for Adult Sex Offences Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt and Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders following the work of a rape scrutiny panel to consider the fall in referrals from police to CPS.
Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said: “We are far better than we were 20 years ago in the way we deal with victims of sexual offences. The evidence is clear in that far more people are coming forward; but for a while I have been concerned about how we, the police, approach and deal with these types of offences.
“We already know that over 80% of victims of sexual offences are believed not to come forward to report it to police. This means that for whatever reason people do not trust the criminal justice system to give them the assistance they need at the time they most need it.
“This review is important because as an organisation we have gained some benefits from calling for an independent look at the way we deal with some issues we have dealt with for a long time.”
Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, said: “We have worked hard in recent years to improve our performance in rape cases and the improvements have been dramatic. But we still find ourselves fighting the same myths and sterotypes today, conscious or unconscious, that we identified decades ago.
“Following the recent rape scrutiny panel we identified that these myths are still preventing some cases being successfully prosecuted.
“This review may provide some harsh realities for us to face about the handling of some rape cases in London, but that is what we need if we are really going to tackle this horrific crime in the way it needs to be tackled. The lessons and good practice identified in this review will also assist the work across the country to further improve our prosecution of rape cases
“This independent scrutiny will allow Londoners to know that this is being treated with the seriousness it deserves at the very highest level. We owe this to the victims of this awful and intrusive crime, which can devastate people’s lives.”
The Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC. commented: “The investigation and prosecution of rape presents uniquely challenging and sensitive issues. Overcoming these challenges requires appropriate policies, the highest levels of investigative skills and appropriate resources. Addressing the robust evidential requirements and any subsisting prejudice towards those who deserve the protection of the law also demands exceptional levels of preparation and advocacy. I hope this review will assist in the improvement of those processes.”
Terms of Reference:
Independent Review into the Investigation and Prosecution of Rape in London by Dame Elish Angiolini QC
The purpose of the review is to carry out an independent examination of the police and prosecutorial responses to rape in London in order to identify how victim confidence, reporting and attrition of rape can be improved. The review will take an evidence based and victim centred approach to developing a range of recommendations for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by February 2015. The review will include:
1. An evaluation and benchmarking of current practice including:
1.1 an assessment of police and CPS data;
1.2 consideration of the effectiveness of police and CPS structures and processes;
1.3 professional standards, governance and performance management; and
1.4 consideration of feedback from victims on the police and CPS.
2. Completion of a review of a sample of cases at each stage of the investigation and prosecution including:
2.1 Consideration of procedural issues to identify areas of change to policy and practice;
2.2 Identification of any attitudinal barriers which might prevent an effective criminal justice response particularly on issues related to consent, vulnerable victims and sexual exploitation;
2.3 Consideration of support provided to victims and approach to offenders; and
2.4 Consideration of quality of decision making.
3. Consultation with panels of experts and practitioners (including third sector victim organisations, the NHS, police, prosecutors, judiciary and other partners) on issues highlighted in this review. This will include consideration of:
3.1 Support victims require to report rape;
3.2 Pathway outlining how the police, CPS and health services can interact with each other in order to combine victim care with the criminal justice response;
3.3 Defining what successful outcomes for victims may be including, but not limited to, a criminal justice outcome; and
3.4 Arrangements for external organisations to hold the police and CPS accountable.
4. In carrying out the review, Dame Elish will:
4.1 Have access to details of all relevant information including policies, procedures, management information, files (with full access);
4.2 Have access to members of staff within the Metropolitan Police Service and Crown Prosecution Service;
4.3 Seek information from outside sources especially third sector organisations;
4.4 Build on learning from key activities including Baroness Stern’s Review into the Handling of Rape Complaints by Public Authorities in England and Wales (2010) and the Police/CPS National Scrutiny Panel on Rape (2014);
4.5 Report findings and recommendations from her review to the CPS and
MPS, including highlighting best practice, ahead of publication; and
4.6 Liaising with and taking into account the 2014 CPS Review of RASSO Units conducted by Siobhan Blake.
Â Background on Dame Elish:
Dame Elish Angiolini has significant experience of working in this area and instigated a similar review of the investigation and prosecution of rape and sexual crimes during her tenure as Lord Advocate in Scotland, which led to the creation of Europe’s first specialist national sex crimes unit.
She has also worked throughout her career to improve the support offered to vulnerable victims and witnesses.
Her independence and in-depth knowledge of the criminal justice system, particularly with regards to vulnerable victims, rape and sexual offending means she is ideally placed to lead the London review.Â