The number of people investigated for rape, and subsequently convicted, has fallen to its lowest level since records began more than a decade ago.
A new report shows there were 1,925 convictions in 2018/19, a 27% drop compared with 2,635 the year before.
This was in spite of allegations of rape reaching a high of 58,000.
Campaigners say the CPS has changed its approach in rape cases. This is denied by the CPS, which has announced a review of its decisions in rape cases.
The figures for England and Wales also show the number of suspects charged with rape or another offence has also fallen, from 2,822 in 2017/18 to 1,758 in 2018/19.
In 2007/8, when records were first compiled in the current way, 2,220 cases resulted in a charge.
Of those, 2,201 cases resulted in a conviction – although some would be for investigations started in previous years.
The conviction figure takes in the number of suspects initially investigated for rape who were later convicted of rape or other offences, such as sexual assault or indecent assault.
The CPS – whose budget has been cut by 25% since 2010 – says it has worked hard to improve how it deals with sexual offence cases.
It explains the drop by saying that it is getting fewer rape referrals from police – a 23% fall from the previous year – and that cases are taking longer because of digital evidence and the demands to disclose material to the defence.
Campaigners from End Violence Against Women (EVAW) claim CPS lawyers have quietly changed their approach, no longer building rape prosecutions, but screening cases out if they think a jury will not convict.
The extent to which that has contributed to the plummeting charging and conviction levels is expected to be the subject of legal proceedings brought by EVAW against the CPS.
Andrea Simon, head of public affairs at EVAW, said the numbers showed women subjected to rape were being “further victimised by a system that does not take them seriously”.
She added: “These shocking and unjustifiable failings speak to a clear and concerted shift in how the CPS has decided to prosecute rape.”
Max Hill, director of public prosecutions, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that there had “not been a change in approach” from prosecutors at the CPS.
He said: “I absolutely share the concern at the growing gap between rape reporting levels and the number of cases that are coming to court.
“I am not going to point the finger in any particular direction. We – all of us working in the criminal justice system – need to come together now to discuss this.”
Harriet Wistrich, founder of the Centre for Women’s Justice, told the Today programme that the CPS explanation for the drop in numbers could not explain “the magnitude of statistical change” that had happened over the last two years.
She said evidence provided a “compelling” case that the primary cause of the collapse in prosecutions came from “a deliberate change in the approach taken by the CPS dating back to late 2016”.
Following the publishing of the report, it was announced that the independent CPS watchdog, Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, would review charging decisions in rape cases “to increase accountability and reassure victims of sexual offences”.
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