Rape charge delays revealed by Sunderland MP

MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson.
MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, Bridget Phillipson.
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A WEARSIDE MP is demanding action is taken over concerns prosecutors are taking too long to charge alleged rapists.

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, discovered it now takes 10 days longer to bring about charges compared it five years ago when she raised the matter in the House of Commons.

Today, Ms Phillipson said: “The delays that my parliamentary question uncovered are troubling. At an already a difficult time for victims, it is not fair that they are now having to wait longer for a decision.

“We also know that whilst more victims are coming forward report sexual violence, the number of cases referred to the CPS by police forces has fallen. I have called on ministers to take action to deal with these concerning trends.”

The average time it takes for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to charge a rape case rose to 33.7 days in 2012/13, up from 23.4 days in 2008/9.

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry said it was unfair to make victims wait over a month for a decision, and partly blamed the rise on the build-up of a backlog of rape cases at the CPS.

The increase came despite the fact the number of alleged rapists charged remained roughly the same – 2,553 in 2012/13 compared with 2,565 in 2008/9, according to the latest CPS figures.

Ms Thornberry applauded the CPS for charging more historic abuse cases, which have grown in number since the Jimmy Savile scandal, and recognised these could take longer to investigate.

But she dismissed the CPS’s assertion that it must look at a wider range of evidence nowadays, including social media and telephone records, meaning cases take longer to investigate.

The CPS said some of the convictions secured for cases included in the figures could be for alternative or lesser offences, but said charging rape cases requires more substantial evidence which means prosecutors spend longer reviewing it.

A spokeswoman said specialist rape prosecutors within the CPS sometimes look at evidence that takes time to obtain or review, such as forensic reports, lengthy video interviews with victims, and information held by local authorities.