The home affairs select committee declared historically low rape prosecutions of just 2.4 per cent will not be improved until victims are offered better support. Lengthy delays and the trauma of going through the investigation mean too many victims give up on the possibility of justice, they found. And concern has arisen after survivors claim they are avoiding seeking mental health support as they fear defence lawyers will target them with information disclosed during counselling.
In the year to September 2021, a record 63,136 rape offences were reported to police. But the number of completed rape prosecutions fell from 5,190 in 2016-17 to 1,557 in 2020-2021. Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the committee, said: “Thousands of victims are failing to get the justice they deserve and this has to stop.
“From now on the focus must be on supporting the victims. The fact that even now nearly two-thirds of cases collapse because a victim may not be able to bear going forward is unimaginable. We need to see much more ambition and focus.
“We need better data collection to understand exactly what resources are available to handle rape cases at a local level and how they are performing. Specialist support needs to guide victims throughout the process [with] improved counselling.”
Victims would benefit from independent legal advice, the MPs said, adding that taking away victims’ phones to access data for extended periods “adds needless distress”.
The committee urged the CPS “to publish its updated guidance on pre-trial therapy as soon as possible”.
It said: “The Government should also ask the Law Commission to publish separate recommendations on pre-trial therapy and the disclosure of counselling notes by the end of the year.
“We are concerned that, as the Law Commission will not report until the summer of 2023, victims and survivors could be left without the mental health support they need for longer than