Rape scorecards: will new targets see an increase in the number of charges?

Nick Titchener headshot

Nick Titchener

Director & Solicitor Advocate

In Brief

In July 2021, rape scorecards were introduced by the UK government, in order to increase transparency around rape cases, while also improving police and public prosecutor performance in relation to such offences. As specialist rape defence solicitors, we examine the impact of these scorecards.

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What is included on the recorded adult tape offences scorecard?

These scorecards are intended to monitor the performance of justice agencies in relation to rape cases. They will reveal numbers of charges made, prosecutions and convictions – as well as other metrics – and will serve to hold these agencies to account accordingly.

These are the three stages of rape cases, each of which the scorecards focus on separately:

  • Crime recorded to police decision
  • Police referral to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decision to charge or not
  • CPS rape charge to case completion in court

At each of those stages, the scorecards measure performance against the following objectives:

  • Progress towards aims of goverment rape review
  • Improving timeliness
  • Increasing victim engagement
  • Improving quality of justice
  • Additional volume metrics

Tracking all this is designed to improve the way rape cases are dealt with and, ultimately, the number of cases prosecuted. In July 2020, CPS rape statistics revealed that prosecutions and convictions for rape had fallen by 60% in four years, reaching historic lows. 

Such drops in conviction rates for rape led to the two-year-long government rape review, which was published in June 2021 and recommended the publication of comprehensive scorecards every six months.

One of the key concerns that prompted the review itself was the time it takes to reach an outcome in rape cases. The first scorecard (Autumn 2021) revealed that it often takes well over a year for police to charge someone, which is just the first of three stages. The CPS must then decide whether or not to authorise the charge, which usually takes over 100 days. The final stage of the process, the Crown Court case, can be the most time-consuming of all: between April and June 2021, the mean duration was 457 days.

Of course, many cases do not reach court, or even develop into charges. This is often due to victims not supporting further police action, which applied to over 60% of cases between April and June 2021. Even after charges are made, sometimes victims withdraw from the process or do not provide evidence.

Such uncertainty and slow timelines impact both victims and those accused, with lives put on hold and emotional distress prolonged. The scorecards are part of efforts to ensure speedier and more just outcomes for all.

Will the new rape scorecards see an increase in the number of charges?

The scorecards are a response to public uproar and campaigning surrounding the historically low number of convictions for rape seen in 2020. As such, they are designed to lead to higher numbers of charges being pressed.

The explicit aim of the scorecards and the wider review is to ‘return the volumes of rape cases being referred by the police, charged, and going to court, back to 2016 levels’. The scorecards allow the government to chart progress towards achieving that aim. If they return what are deemed to be insufficient results, there will be further pressure to increase the number of cases charged and actioned. This pressure will come from within the government, the media and campaign groups, to name just a few sources.

If I have been accused of rape, what should I do?

Needless to say, rape is an extremely serious and damaging accusation, and one which can affect almost every aspect of your life, from your occupation to your relationships with family members. There is also no time limit on charges of rape, meaning an incident from decades ago can form the basis of an accusation.

It is important to understand what you have been accused of. Under Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, rape is defined as ‘one person’s intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth with the penis, whereby the other person has not consented to the act’. As such, rape can only be committed by a man. Similar offences include sexual assault and sexual assault by penetration.

The gravity of a rape allegation is reflected by it being an indictable-only offence, meaning it can only be tried in the Crown Court, which is reserved for the most serious offences. It carries, potentially, a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If you are found guilty of rape, the court may also compel you to sign the Sex Offenders Register and abide by the terms of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

Even if you are innocent of the offence, it is vital that you enlist legal representation as soon as possible, to comprehensively prepare your case and prevent you from incriminating yourself in any way. If there are any relevant materials that could be considered evidence, such as messages or social media posts, take care to preserve these and present them to your legal team at the earliest opportunity. 

If you have been falsely accused of rape, it can be incredibly distressing and frustrating, as well as damaging to both your personal and professional lives. In such cases, it can be tempting to contact the accuser, but any attempt to do so could be severely detrimental to your case and chances of clearing your name. Instead, you should trust in the guidance of solicitors experienced in representing people accused of rape.

Having dealt with hundreds of rape cases, we can provide expert legal advice and the best possible representation, helping to achieve the best outcome for you. We also understand the worries and concerns those accused of rape will have and can help you deal with the indirect consequences of being charged with it. With the new scorecard in place, more rape charges are to be expected in the years ahead, making it more important than ever to seek help from a specialist rape defence solicitors like Lawtons as soon as allegations are made.

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