CPS launches package to improve prosecutions of sexual offences
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has published a package of measures which it says will ensure offenders of sexual violence are brought to justice and victims of these crimes are properly supported.
RASSO 2025 is a 5 year plan aimed at helping the CPS to understand and reduce the gap between reported cases of sexual violence and those which come to court. It also strives to provide vast improvements in case handling across the justice system. Fair treatment of all parties and striking the balance between the needs and rights of victims and those of suspects is paramount to RASSO 2025.
There are a whole host of commitments which the CPS wants to adhere to including:
- a wide-ranging joint action plan with the police to improve collaborative working and strengthen case strategies;
- clear, proportionate legal advice to the police at the early stages of an investigation, to help focus on reasonable lines of enquiry;
- fully resourcing specialist RASSO units with dedicated, highly trained prosecutors;
- ongoing training and the development of new guidance to reflect changes in the law and to aid understanding of the complexities of rape;
- a better quality of communications with victims and complainants, being sensitive to the needs of those who are particularly vulnerable;
- harnessing the opportunities of technology to support effective prosecutions, while balancing the rights of a fair trial with the right to privacy; and
- working constructively with partners across Government, the criminal justice system, and the third sector on the effective and efficient delivery of justice.
Alongside the RASSO 2025 strategy, the CPS is also publishing two further documents that will assist specialist RASSO prosecutors. The first is draft guidance on pre-trial therapy. Whilst these guidelines are still out for consultation, it is made clear from the outset that no one should be prevented from accessing therapy. The guidelines have already been the subject of extensive consultation with stakeholders and reflect the views of experts. It is expected that these will be finalised later this year.
The second document is a new toolkit for prosecutors considering cases of same-sex sexual violence and sexual violence involving a transgender complainant or defendant has been developed. This explores issues including specific vulnerabilities, relevant myths and stereotypes, power dynamics within relationships and victim support considerations.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich.