91,000 charged for attacks on women

 

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The Independent Online

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has reported its highest conviction rate on record for cases involving violence against women and girls.

While in 2007/8 the CPS prosecuted 75,000 cases involving violence against females, by the year 2011/12 that number was 91,000.

And over the same period the number of convictions rose from 52,000 to almost 67,000.

The figures will be announced in a speech today by Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, who will say a "cultural change" in the way such issues are dealt with has helped their success at being prosecuted.

"The work of the service in recognising violence against women and girls as a unified, high-priority issue, championed at the most senior level nationally and in the areas, and addressed through new policies, training and the use of specialist staff, has delivered a cultural change," he will say.

"Cases are now judged entirely on the merits of the evidence: we have recognised that myths and stereotypes previously held have no place in our criminal justice system - and that we need to tackle them head on."

Mr Starmer is chairing a case review panel to explore the handling of the Rochdale prosecutions where nine Muslim men, mainly of Pakistani origin, were found guilty of plying girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs and raping them.

He will say: "Violence against women and girls is not a race issue, but what we do recognise is that the manifestation of abuse varies across communities and we have to discuss the issues and possible solutions together with those communities."

Mr Starmer is also expected to talk about the issue of teenage relationship abuse, where there remains a low volume of prosecutions and explain how a National Scrutiny Panel he is hosting will look at six recent cases and work out recommendations.

He will also mention female genital mutilation, for which there have been no prosecutions. "I am determined that we will find a way to bring offenders to account," he will say.

The head of the CPS will tell a gathering of criminal justice agencies and women's groups: "We have achieved a great deal in recent years.

"We now deliver justice for 15,000 more women each year than we did just four years ago. And we do so within a different culture - one which challenges myths and stereotypes and should improve confidence in the criminal justice system.

"But while more than 300,000 women are sexually assaulted each year, while only one in 10 women who experience serious sexual assault report it to the police, and while conviction rates remain lower for these attacks than for other crimes, none of us can afford to stop working to improve further."

Mr Starmer will describe the strategy taken by the CPS to tackle the issues of violence against women and girls, such as developing policies and guidance on domestic violence and rape and making clear how prosecutors should deal with these cases.

He will explain how all 3,000 of the service's prosecutors have trained on domestic violence, and more than 800 have been trained as rape specialists, while others have received specialist guidance in issues such as honour based violence, forced marriage, prostitution, trafficking, stalking and cybercrimes.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of domestic violence charity Refuge, said: "Refuge welcomes the recent CPS report which shows that the number of perpetrators being prosecuted for domestic violence has increased to 91,466 per year.

"Refuge has been campaigning for four decades to ensure that women and children are given the protection and justice they deserve and we commend the CPS for their efforts. Whilst we recognise these efforts are a step in the right direction, there is no room for complacency.

"Refuge remains concerned that the numbers of perpetrators prosecuted and subsequently convicted represents the tip of an iceberg. In London alone, there were almost 52,000 domestic violence offences recorded in one year, so the 66,860 successfully prosecuted nationally, barely scratches the surface."

Diana Barran, chief executive of the Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada) charity, said: "The last five years has seen a steady improvement in outcomes for victims of domestic abuse whose cases go to court, and this year represents another step forward.

"However, it is also important to recognise that not all victims report the abuse they experience to the police.

"For this reason it is vital that local commissioners fund IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisers) services so that victims continue to get the support they need to live in safety."

PA