Commission of an independent review into rape investigation

09 June 2014

New Scotland Yard

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.

"We are far better than we were 20 years ago in the way we deal with victims of sexual offences"

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."