CPS is not a ‘faceless organisation’, says prosecutors’ boss

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The director of public prosecutions has insisted the CPS is not a “faceless organisation” as he was grilled by MPs on “depressingly low” conviction rates for rape.

Max Hill told the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Monday the Crown Prosecution Service is “full of people who are dedicated to delivering justice” as the latest analysis of official figures showed court delays in rape cases had worsened this year.

Acting committee chairman Tim Loughton asked why there is a “very low conviction rate” for rape cases, whether the situation is improving and to pinpoint the problems in the system that are “resulting in those depressingly low figures”.

Mr Hill said prosecutors need support to “continue to do better in the way that we receive rape investigations from the police and the way that those investigations have converted into charged cases before the courts”, there needs to be “better collaboration with the police” and an improvement in the support provided to victims at all stages of the process.

He added: “The Crown Prosecution Service is absolutely not immune from scrutiny.

“We welcome it.

“We need to demonstrate transparency, not just as to data but as to how we do everything … The CPS is not some faceless organisation.

“It is full of people who are dedicated to delivering justice every day of the week.”

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“So they are representative of the issue which we have to come together to resolve.”

But Mr Loughton said some victims would see that description as “a great understatement of the problem that we’ve that we’ve got at the moment”.

Asked what he would say in response to someone named only as Emily, who described the CPS as a “completely disembodied thing” that sits above the police and is “even harder to get in touch with or even more lacking in empathy”, Mr Hill replied: “I would say sorry to her, and I am sorry that that was her experience and that is the way that she feels”.

He said it was important for the criminal justice system to “express some humility” and make it clear we are “determined to improve on that for all of the Emilys who come after …”

Last week scorecards setting out where the criminal justice system is “failing to deliver for victims” were published for the first time.

The Government said they showed “we are yet to see positive impacts” on how rape cases are being handled.

It took, on average, more than 15 months (457 days) from a suspect being charged for an adult rape case to be concluded in a crown court during April to June, according to the data.

This is compared to 373 days in January to March, meaning the delays increased by nearly three months (84 days).

In 2019 it was 301 days.

It came as Government plans revealed prosecutors will be told to meet victims to understand how a crime has affected them before making charging decisions in cases.

The “explicit requirement” could apply to certain crimes, possibly including rape, under a Victims’ Law for England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

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