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Justice Committee questions Director of Public Prosecutions on fall in rape prosecutions, court capacity and collapse of Hillsborough trial

14 June 2021

The Justice Committee questions Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, on Tuesday 15 June in a session focusing on key challenges faced by the Crown Prosecution service including the continued fall in successful rape prosecutions, issues raised by the backlog of cases before the courts and the fallout from the recent collapse of the latest Hillsborough trial.

Covid-19 has placed significant strain on the court system. By December 2020, caseloads were 43% higher than pre-Covid levels in the Crown Court and 43% higher in the Magistrates’ Court. Measures have been introduced to address the backlog and overcome the challenges of social distancing, including the introduction of virtual and Nightingale courtrooms, and an Interim Charging Protocol to prioritise cases. However, the number of live cases waiting to be heard before the Crown Court continues to rise. 

The session will examine progress in tackling the backlog in cases and the impact of current measures to address it. The Committee will also consider what further measures could be instituted to help improve the pace at which cases move through the court system. 

The backlog has consequences for justice, including in the prosecution of RASSO (Rape and Serious Sexual Offences) cases. In 2020, fewer than one in 60 rape cases reported to the police last year resulted in a suspect being charged. In that year there were 1,074 convictions for rape, only just over a third of the number of convictions in 2016-17 (2,991). The past five years have also seen a steep increase in the proportion of victims dropping out during  prosecutions, rising from 25% in 2015-2016 to 43% in the year 2020. 

In July last year, the Crown Prosecution Service published its Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Strategy (RASSO) 2025, setting out its approach to improve the response of the criminal justice system. The Committee will question the Director of Public Prosecutions on the causes of the decrease in successful prosecutions for rape. It will look at the impact that the RASSO 2025 strategy has had so far, as well as broader issues relating to disclosure and victim retention rates. 

The Committee will also question Mr Hill on the collapse of the trial of two South Yorkshire Police officers and the force’s former solicitor following a  ruling that there was insufficient evidence and no case to answer in the latest and last of a line of Hillsborough cases.  

Witness

Tuesday 15 June

At 2.30pm

  • Max Hill QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, Crown Prosecution Service

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright