Rise in prosecutions & convictions
More defendants than ever before are being prosecuted and convicted for sexual offences across England and Wales according to the Crown Prosecution Service’s 10th Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) report published yesterday (10 October 2017).
Definition of VAWG
VAWG crimes include domestic abuse (DA), stalking, harassment, rape, sexual offences, forced marriage, so-called ‘honour-based’ violence, female genital mutilation, child abuse, human trafficking for sexual exploitation, prostitution and pornography. Grouping these offences together recognises that most victims are female, although the figures in report also include offending against male victims.
The report outlines the large increases in convictions for rape (48%) and other sexual offences (79%) that have been witnessed in the decade since the first VAWG report was published in 2007-08.
It also shows large annual increases in prosecutions and convictions over the last year for rape (11.8% and 11.2%, respectively) and other sexual offences (12.5% and 14.7%).
These offences, along with domestic abuse, now account for one fifth (19.3%) of the CPS’s caseload – up from just 7.1% a decade ago.
More than a third of the 13,700 defendants who were convicted of sexual offences including rape in 2016/17 had abused children. For the first time the report also reveals the ages of rape victims. The data shows that more than half of victims (52%) were under 24 years old, 18% aged 14-17 years, and more than 9% under 13 years old.
Domestic abuse prosecutions have risen by 47% and convictions by 61% over the last decade.
However, it is interesting and important to note that there was a marked decrease in domestic abuse prosecutions and convictions compared with 2015/16, following a two-year fall in referrals of domestic abuse from the police to the CPS. It is tempting to attribute this worrying finding to the reduction in police funding over recent years.
- A 63% rise in VAWG convictions over the past 10 years, from 51,974 in 2007/8, to 84,565 in 2016/17
- The conviction rate for VAWG prosecutions has also increased, from 69% in 2007/08 to 75.3% in 2016/17, the highest ever recorded
- More than 13,700 defendants were convicted for overall sexual offences, including rape and child sexual abuse, a 14% rise since 2015/16
A breakdown of those defendants shows:
- An 11.8% increase in completed rape prosecutions in 2016/17 compared to the previous year (5,190 up from 4,643), and an 11.2% rise in convictions (2,991 up from 2,689)
- The highest ever volume (13,490) of completed sexual offence prosecutions, excluding rape, with a 12.5% rise in defendants compared to the previous year. The conviction rate is now 79.5% – the highest rate ever recorded
- Child sexual abuse prosecutions have risen by 82% and convictions by 89% over the decade, and by 15.5% and 15.7% respectively over the last year, the highest volume ever
This year’s data also reflects the changing nature of VAWG crimes, with an increase in offending using the internet and social media.
In the past year the number of prosecutions for disclosing private sexual images without consent (so-called ‘revenge pornography’) has more than doubled from 206 to 465. There have also been more prosecutions using new offences, including a rise in rape pornography prosecutions (three to 24), and for possession of a paedophile manual (one to 14), although, as you can see, numbers remain very low.
The report also shows that since the introduction of the offence of controlling and coercive behaviour, 309 offences have been charged and reached a first hearing. Many of these involved control of victims through the internet, tracking software and social media platforms. The CPS has also prosecuted a higher proportion of domestic abuse-related offences of indecent or grossly offensive communications.
The report includes an infographic summarising the main changes in the prosecution and conviction of VAWG offences in the last 10 years:
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