'It looks like we have given up': Outrage as 'appalling' new rape conviction figures revealed

Young depressed woman
Critics blamed the record low in rape convictions on government cuts. (Getty)

Campaigners have hit out at “appalling” rape prosecution figures that revealed a record low for convictions of the crime.

Prosecutors have unveiled a five-year strategy to improve the rate of rape convictions as new figures showed that prosecutions have dropped by a third.

Police and prosecutors faced criticism earlier this month after it was revealed that just 1.4% of recorded rape cases ended with a prosecution in the year to March.

The figures have been blamed on government cuts, with one former prosecutor saying: “victims deserve better”.

They come just weeks after victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird said rape is effectively being decriminalised due to a “catastrophic decline in prosecutions”.

The Centre for Women’s Justice said the numbers show the ‘effective decriminialisation of rape’ in England and Wales.

End Violence Against Women director Sarah Green said: “We have seen a vacuum of leadership and accountability within the CPS when it comes to rape, with no recognition of the harm done to the thousands of survivors being failed by the system.”

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Centre for Women’s justice director Harriet Wistrich added: “In actual fact a survivor reporting rape five years ago had a much better chance of seeing justice done. How can it be that we have moved so far backwards in a crime that is so serious and does so much harm?

Nazir Afzal, former chief prosecutor for the North West, also hit out at the government, tweeting: “Rape is possibly the hardest of crimes to prosecute but this looks like they’ve given up.”

He said government cuts were “largely to blame”, saying: “Recruiting new police & prosecutors do not replace the loss of 1/2 million years of experience.”

He added: “Victims deserve bettter [sic].”

David Lammy MP wrote: “These numbers are appalling. So much more must be done to support victims. Rapists must face the full force of the law.”

Commenting on the figures, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it was “working hard to reverse the trend we’ve seen in recent years”.

Speaking ahead of the release of the statistics, director of public prosecutions Max Hill said the CPS would use a five-year strategy to improve the figures.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I do accept the scale of the problem but we must also accept if we are talking about that, that looking back three or four years some serious mistakes were also being made.

“There were cases going to court which shouldn’t have been going to court, so we have had to eradicate that as well.”

According to a report from the Police Foundation published on Wednesday, the number of rapes reported to police rose by 260% between 2013 and 2019.

But data from the Home Office showed that in the 12 months to March just 1.4% of 55,130 offences recorded by police led to prosecution. Of the cases that were closed, 41% collapsed because the victim did not support further action.