Tag Archive | "rape"

Sentencing and the prison population

Justice secretary Liz Truss set out her views on sentencing and the prison population in an address to the Centre for Social Justice last week. She believes that “We should be proud that we live in a society that no longer shames victims of rape; that is prepared to confront child sex abuse, and has brought domestic violence out in the open.”

She said that the problems boil down to four distinct areas: sentences are too long; prisons are too overcrowded to work; the wrong people are in prison; and the management of the prison population at the moment isn’t good enough.

She pointed out that the prison population has remained relatively stable since 2010, at around 85,000 people, and that it is not true that rates of imprisonment have gone up across the board. In 2015 courts handed out 9,000 fewer short-term sentences than they did in 2010.

She identified the biggest driver for prison growth in the last twenty years as the exposure, pursuit and punishment of sexual offences and crimes of violence, and a toughening up of sentences for these crimes. “Since 2000 there has been a 29% increase in those sentenced to custody for robbery and a 75% increase for violence against a person. And there has been a 140% increase in the number of sexual offenders in prison,” she said.

She added: “This has led to a change in the make-up of our prison population – from two in five being prisoners convicted of violent, sexual or drug offences in 1995 to three in five now. There has been a huge difference in the people we send to prison. Compared with 2010, there are now 3,000 more sex offenders in prison.”

She pledged to take action to spare victims of sexual abuse the trauma of giving evidence in open court in criminal cases. In family courts “I will end the appalling practice of domestic abuse victims being cross-examined by their attacker” she said.

“I want to transform our prisons from places of violence and despair to places of self-improvement and hope where all prisoners are given the chance to lead a better life,” she said, “because I believe that everybody is capable of reform.” The Prison and Courts Bill, due to be published this month, will enshrine in law that reforming offenders is a key purpose of prison and that the Secretary of State has responsibility for delivery.

A more systematic, nationally consistent approach is needed to provide quicker and more certain access to mental health treatment for offenders. Early intervention by the courts is vitally important in stopping women offenders from ending up in prison. “We will be announcing our strategy for women later this year and have already announced a new director for women in custody and the community – Sonia Crozier,” she said. “Early intervention is not a ‘nice to have’ added extra to the justice system, it is vital if we are ever to break the cycle of crime, punishment and more crime.”

She acknowledged that: “We also have to deal with the levels of violence and self-harm in our prisons. That is why as well as investing in reform and giving more powers to governors and creating a new frontline agency – Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service – we are putting an extra £100m a year into the frontline and will take on 2,500 more frontline officers.”

So much for former justice secretary Grayling’s mismanagement, subservient to Chancellor Osborne’s austerity programme, conceding dangerous cuts, all the while denying that there was crisis in the prison service. Liz Truss knows different. Since this speech was delivered she has offered substantial – and divisive – pay rises. Never was there such a clear example of the false economies of the austerity programme.

She concluded: “The answer to overcrowding is not to cut prisoner numbers in half. It is to make sure we have the right resources, the right workforce, the right buildings and the right regimes to reform offenders and turn their lives around (then) we will see our society become safer and our prison population will reduce.” Let us hope so.

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Violence against Women and Girls

The Crown Prosecution Service is prosecuting and convicting a record number of rape, domestic abuse, sexual offences and child abuse cases, a report published today shows.

The CPS’s annual Violence against Women and Girls report shows that rape, domestic abuse and sexual offences now account for 18.6 per cent of the CPS’s total caseload and this figure has been increasing year on year. In 2015/16, the CPS prosecuted 117,568 defendants for all crimes grouped together as Violence against Women and Girls (VaWG).

More than 100,000 defendants were prosecuted for domestic abuse, with over 75,000 convicted, the highest volumes ever recorded, reaching the highest ever conviction rate of 75.4 per cent by March 2016. In December 2015, the new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour also came into law, and statistics show there were five prosecutions of this offence completed by the end of March 2016.

Alison Saunders said: “Domestic abuse, rape and sexual offences now account for nearly 19 per cent of our workload – an increase over the past six years from just under 9 per cent. While the volume of these cases is increasing, the report also shows the volume of convictions has risen by 11 per cent.

“Today a rape, domestic abuse, sexual offence or child abuse case is more likely to be prosecuted and convicted than ever before.”
The DPP said that historical under-reporting of offences meant that the number of cases being charged was only a proportion of the offending taking place. She said that the ease with which such crimes could be committed online was contributing to the increase in prosecutions.

Other areas where online abuse is being used as a tool of harassment and intimidation are within the record numbers of stalking cases being taken to court. In 2015-16 the CPS prosecuted more cases of stalking and harassment – 12,986 – than ever before. Of those, almost 70% involved ongoing domestic abuse, and many perpetrators used the internet or other technology to carry out the offending.

There was a 32% rise, to 2,094 cases, of sending grossly offensive or indecent messages under the Malicious Communications Act, and a 20% increase to 2,026 in similar offending under section 127 of the Communications Act. The DPP said these cases related mostly to online abuse, or abuse via text, email and other forms of technology.

Saunders went on to say: “Over the last year, I have doubled the resources in specialist units that handle rape and serious sexual offence cases, including child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. Prosecutors have received detailed training including on vulnerable victims and the issue of sexual consent. Following this work we have seen a rise in the rape conviction rate to 57.9 per cent and, significantly, there has also been a fall in the number of acquittals after trial.”

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Survivors of domestic abuse are starting to have more confidence in the criminal justice system, which is why we are seeing another rise in the volume of prosecutions and convictions. However, we know that much more work is still needed, particularly in understanding of the nature and impact of coercive control, right across the criminal justice system.”

The full text of the ‘Delivering Justice’ report can be found at:


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Police rape investigations criticised

A joint review by the inspectorates of police and crown prosecutors has found that intelligence failings lead to police missing evidence of serial rapists, who may be escaping justice as a result.

The review, published on Tuesday, says that rape problem profiles, tracking all attacks in a particular area, are only being kept up to date in three out of 43 police forces, making it difficult to draw connections between attacks. It highlighted two examples which it said showed police failing to use intelligence properly. In the first, Read the full story

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Anonymity for rape trial defendents

One of the more surprising pledges in the Coalition programme for government was: “We will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants.” This move would turn the clock back to 1976, when the Sexual Offences Act introduced anonymity for those accused of rape. The provision was later repealed. Read the full story

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Stern Review

“Rape is a serious and deeply damaging crime. It is unique in the way it strikes at the bodily integrity and self-respect of the victim, in the demands it makes on those public authorities required to respond to it and in the controversy it generates (it) is unique as it is an inherently lawful activity made illegal because of lack of consent. Women, men, children, and people of all ages and all social groups can become rape victims”. Read the full story

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“It is a national disgrace that in 2009 rape almost always goes unpunished” writes Libby Brooks in the ‘Guardian’. “This is about systemic, institutionalised negligence. If you are raped, the likelihood is that the police won’t help you, and the CPS won’t help you. Read the full story

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