Public authorities’ handling of rape cases to be reviewed

Good news: the Government has announced a review of how rape complaints are handled:

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Solicitor General Vera Baird today announced a review into how rape complaints are handled from when a rape is first disclosed until the court reaches a verdict.

The review, led by Baroness Stern, will look in particular at how public authorities (including the police, local authorities, health providers, the Crown Prosecution Service, etc) not only respond individually to rape complaints, but how they interact with each other, as well as professionals’ attitudes to rape and evidence from the victims.

The Stern Review will make recommendations on, among other things, how to encourage more victims to report rape; ensure that more cases progress further through the criminal justice system; fairly increase conviction rates; and build satisfaction and confidence in how rape complaints are handled

The Stern Review will start immediately, and will report back early in the new year to the Minister for Women and Equality, the Home Secretary, the Solicitor General, and the Minister with responsibility for victims at the Ministry of Justice.

The Fawcett Society responded:

“The Fawcett Society welcomes the Government announcement of a review of the handling of rape complaints. A comprehensive review into the failings of the current system is urgently needed. It is a national scandal that thousands of rape victims have no access to justice, and frequently face a culture of disbelief, delayed responses which may lead to the loss of vital evidence and a lack of support services.

“However, words will need to be followed up with action. The telling fact will be whether the recommendations of the review are followed up with committed and consistent action which results in real cultural change within the criminal justice system.”