More prosecutions and convictions
The CPS is prosecuting, and convicting, more defendants of domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sexual abuse than ever before. In 2015-16 we secured over 8,500 more convictions for Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) crimes – an 11% rise from 2014-15 and the third year running that we have seen an increase. These prosecutions now account for 18.6% of the CPS’ total caseload.
That’s the opening paragraph of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders’ foreword to the Crown Prosecution Service’s annual report on violence against women and girls published last week (6 September 2016).
VAWG crimes include: domestic abuse (DA), stalking, harassment, rape, sexual offences, forced marriage, honour based violence, female genital mutilation, child abuse, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, prostitution and pornography. Men and boys who are victims of these crimes are included in these figures.
- On domestic abuse, the CPS completed the highest volume of prosecutions ever, securing more than 75,000 convictions with a 74.5% conviction rate.
- They also began prosecutions for two new offences related to domestic abuse; so-called ‘revenge pornography’ which came into force in April 2015, and ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’ which was implemented in December 2015.
- There have been more than 200 so-called revenge pornography prosecutions since the legislation came into force – indicative of the growing number of offences occurring through social media, a trend which is reflected in the case studies within the report.
- In September 2015, the CPS ran its first social media campaign on rape. The #ConsentIs campaign subsequently was judged to be very successful and may have contributed towards a rise in the rape conviction rate to 57.9%, with a fall in the number of acquittals after trial. More than 4,600 defendants were prosecuted for rape offences with convictions being secured in 2,689 of these – the highest volumes ever.
- Prosecutions were commenced for 12,986 harassment and stalking offences in 2015-16; this is a rise of 864 offences (7.1%) from 2014-15 when 12,122 prosecutions were commenced and is the highest volume ever recorded.
- The volume of child abuse referrals from the police increased to 13,282 in 2015-16 from 12,840 in 2014-15, an increase of 3.4%. 8,889 (66.9% of these referrals) were charged, a rise of 193 from 2014-15, the highest volume ever recorded.
- In 2015-16 there was a rise in the prosecution of child abuse image offences from 21,580 in 2014-15 to 22,545 (4.5%), including prosecutions commenced for 16,672 offences of sexual exploitation of children through photographs.
The CPS has updated its guidelines on social media to incorporate new and emerging crimes that are being committed online and to provide clear advice to further help prosecutors in dealing with cyber-enabled crime.
The CPS launched a public consultation in March 2016 about the proposed revisions to the updated Social Media Guidelines including consideration of whether a new section on VAWG offences should be included. This is because developments in technology have created a new landscape for controlling, sexually-motivated or other forms of inter-personal offending.
The use of the internet, social media platforms, emails, text messages, smartphone apps, spyware and GPS tracking software to humiliate, control and threaten victims is rising. The proposed new section alerts prosecutors to the various forms of cyber-stalking. Furthermore, new guidance has been produced on disclosing private sexual images without consent and controlling or coercive behaviour – offences which have been created since the initial guidelines were published. The CPS also wanted to alert prosecutors to the emerging trend of potentially grossly offensive communications, containing images of women with very serious injuries, being raped or being subjected to sadistic acts of violence.
Advice has been added to the guidelines about the use of false online profiles and websites which are being set up in the victim’s name, with false and damaging information.
The new guidelines are expected to be published later this month.
The VAWG report is summarised in the YouTube video below: