Rape charges: More than 1,000 victims left waiting since 2020 for Met Police charging decision

According to Home Office figures, just 2.7% of rape accusations in 2020 have had charges brought by the Met Police.

More than 1,000 rape victims have been waiting since 2020 for the Met Police to make a charging decision on their case, figures show.

Analysis of Home Office data by sister site NationalWorld found that 1,035 rape offences first recorded in London in 2020 that still had no outcome assigned to them by that point.

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That was 14% of all rapes.

‘No outcome assigned’ means the police, in conjunction with the CPS, had neither decided to bring charges, nor to close the case with an unsuccessful outcome – leaving victims stuck in limbo.

On top of that, just 2.7% - or 199 - of rape accusations in 2020 have had charges brought by the Met Police - two years later.

The majority of the rest of the rape offences reported that year broke down due to evidential difficulties.

Rape Crisis said the impact of delays to charging “cannot be understated”, with some victims known to experience flashbacks, panic attacks and nervous breakdowns.

It also leads to victims giving up on the criminal justice system entirely, the charity said.

The Met told us that sexual offences are some of the most complex crimes officers deal with, but that it is “absolutely determined to increase the number of rape perpetrators brought to justice by improving our processes, investigations and victim care”.

Problems driving up rape charge rates are “not unique to the Met”, the force said, adding if it is to start to really change the outcomes for victims “we must also change our approach”.

The Met is investing £11 million in digital forensics and holding multi-agency panels to scrutinise rape investigations, the spokesperson said.

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What is the average wait for police to bring charges?

Long waits have been one focus of the drive to improve the criminal justice system response to rape and sexual assault in recent months.

According to a rape ‘scorecard’ the Government publishes every three months, the median  time taken in July to September last year between police recording an adult rape offence and chargng an offender was 316 days (10.3 months).

That was an improvement on the previous three months (415 days) but still far longer than 2019 levels (281 days).

Separate data from the CPS – who decide whether to press charges once investigating police officers refer a case to them – shows they took 159 days on average to charge a suspect after police submitted the case to them in the first nine months of 2021/22, four times longer than for crime as a whole (39 days).

That figure has worsened steadily over the last three years. In the first nine months of 2019/20, the wait was 140 days.

Victims will then also face long delays for cases to make it to court, in the tiny minority of rapes that do.

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Why do long waits matter?

Campaigners often argue that “justice delayed is justice denied” due to problems with evidence or people’s memories degrading over time.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and Rape Crisis England and Wales both agree that long delays are retraumatising for victims.

Jayne Butler, chief executive officer of Rape Crisis, said the impact “cannot be understated”, with some victims known to experience flashbacks, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns, and heightened anxiety and stress.

“Many will inevitably drop out of the criminal justice process entirely,” she added.

Deniz Uğur, deputy director of EVAW, said long delays are, for many survivors, “worse than their experience of sexual violence”.

“The criminal justice system is not delivering justice to survivors but worse still, it is harming women who come forward to report rape and sexual assault,” she said.

What do the authorities say?

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “We are absolutely determined to increase the number of rape perpetrators brought to justice by improving our processes, investigations and victim care, while working with partners across the criminal justice system.

“Sexual offence investigations are some of the most complex police deal with.

“We know there is more to do to increase the number of cases brought before the courts.”

The spokesperson said that “in the Met 4.3% of rapes reported to us currently result in a criminal charge”, however could not give LondonWorld a timeperiod for this figure. 

They continued: “In November 2021 we announced that the Met is investing £11million in digital forensics to help us bring criminals to justice and deal more effectively and efficiently with victims of crime, including rape and serious sexual offences.

“We also hold multi-agency scrutiny panels which consist of representatives from CPS and key partner agencies.

“The panel aim to provide independent oversight of rape investigations to identify best practise and opportunities for improved working practises, adding transparency to the investigation and improving conviction rates.”

A CPS spokesperson recognised the criminal justice system “can be an extremely difficult time for victims”.

“That is why we are working hard with our criminal justice partners to speed things up at every stage of these cases – without compromising on standards – so we can provide justice and fairness for victims and suspects alike,” they continued.

“We want to build the strongest cases possible and it is vital these are thoroughly investigated which can take time.

“A key part of streamlining how we handle complex cases is focusing on excellent file quality to cut delays and we are seeing encouraging progress in areas where this has been prioritised.

“We are also driving up use of our early advice to police which will assist with proportionate investigations and setting reasonable lines of enquiry from the outset.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: “In the last three months there has been a 15% increase in the number of people convicted for rape offences and the number of outstanding cases in the Crown Court is beginning to fall, but we know there is a lot further to go to restore the swift access to justice victims deserve.

“That’s why we are recruiting 1,000 more independent sexual and domestic violence advisers, launching a new 24/7 helpline for victims, trialling a new approach to police investigations, and rolling out pre-recorded cross-examination across the country so rape victims get the justice and support they need at every stage of the justice system.”

Have you been affected by long waits in the criminal justice system after reporting sexual violence? Contact [email protected] - your identity will be protected.