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Published: Thursday 25th June 2015 by The News Editor
A record number of people in England and Wales are being convicted of violent crimes against women, figures show.
There have been increases in the number of successful prosecutions for sexual offences, child sex abuse and domestic violence cases, and honour-based violence, while more people were charged with rape than ever before, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures for 2014-15.
In total, some 107,104 cases concerning violence against women and girls were prosecuted during the time-frame, a rise of 18.3% on the previous year.
The number of those convicted rose to its highest level at 78,773 – up 16.9% on the previous year, while the CPS said it was also investigating more historic allegations following the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal.
But the data also revealed the rape conviction rate fell to 56.9% – despite its highest ever number of convictions. The majority of defendants were aged 25-59 (59%) and 18-24 (21%). A total of 354 defendants (just under 8%) were aged 14-17 and 56 were aged 10-13, the figures show.
Campaigners welcomed the report and praised prosecutors, the police and victims for their work in securing more convictions than ever before.
But they said greater funding was required to help increase conviction rates and ensure women had access to support services.
Katie Russell, national spokeswoman for Rape Crisis England and Wales, said: “It’s clear that some progress has been made towards improving responses to this broad range of devastating crimes.
“At the same time, the report highlights that we still have some distance to travel before all survivors of sexual violence and violence against women and girls receive the justice they want and deserve and that there is no room for complacency.”
Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “The increase in prosecutions shows that more women are seeking justice, with big increases for example in the numbers of rape prosecutions and child sexual abuse prosecutions.
“If as a society we really care about ensuring justice for survivors, we should do everything in our power to try to prevent abuse in the first place. This has to start in schools, with compulsory sex and relationships education to give young people the chance to talk about respectful relationships.
“The CPS report includes figures on the alarmingly young age of many defendants in rape prosecutions. This is a call to urgent action.”
The report showed there were the highest ever conviction volumes of domestic abuse (68,601), rape (2,581), sexual offences (7,591), honour-based violence (129) and child abuse (7,469), with more than 10,000 additional defendants convicted for domestic abuse.
There was a 15% rise in stalking and harassment prosecutions to over 12,000, and of these 1,103 prosecutions were commenced under the new stalking offences.
Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, said today’s report was “really good news for the victims of these dreadful crimes” and added it was also testament “to the hard work we (the CPS) have done recently to encourage victims to come forward, to work better with the police and ensure specially trained prosecutors bring the right cases to court”.
She said: “Where cases meet the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we will not shy away from taking cases forward, even when they are difficult and complex.
“Of course, this additional volume of violence against women and girls work brings challenges for prosecutors not only in terms of numbers, but the type of cases we are seeing – prosecutors across England and Wales are telling me that we are seeing more non-recent child sexual abuse cases and more of the particularly complex rape cases coming forward.
“While there has been a slight drop in the rape conviction rate, we are bringing the right, although often the more difficult, cases to court as they are left to the jury to decide.
“Anyone who is a victim of these crimes should feel encouraged by this news and confident that they will be believed when reporting these crimes.”
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Today’s report demonstrates that significant progress has been made in taking more cases of domestic violence through the criminal justice system. This is positive.
“This progress must continue until we have a system where women who experience domestic violence have exactly the same level of confidence as victims of other crimes, that they are heard and believed, the system works for them and protects their human right to live free from violence.”
An NSPCC spokesman said: “We have to seriously question why conviction rates are dropping when we know more child sexual abuse cases are going to court. It’s a worrying trend, which suggests the justice system isn’t working for children.
“It’s imperative that young victims have the best support possible when giving evidence. Attending court can be a tremendous ordeal for children who are often terrified they will bump into their attacker or face hostile cross-examination from barristers.
“Our Order In Court campaign has pushed for victims to be assisted by experts to help them understand what is being said in court about their case. We also want children to be able to give evidence via video-link from a building away from court to prevent them coming face to face with their abuser. When these vital aids are fully implemented they may help increase the number of convictions.
“Tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation must continue to be a priority for the criminal justice system, particularly in light of the rising volume of child abuse images on the internet and increased online grooming of child victims.”
Minister for preventing abuse and exploitation Karen Bradley said: “We have made protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims and survivors of sexual abuse a key priority.
“It is encouraging to see more victims and survivors reporting these terrible crimes and justice being done. I hope that the increase in prosecutions and convictions for domestic violence, sexual offences, honour-based crimes and child abuse will give victims greater confidence to come forward to speak out about despicable offences that have too often been ignored.”
Published: Thursday 25th June 2015 by The News Editor