Welsh Women’s Aid statement in response to the Crown Prosecution Service Violence Against Women and Girls crime report 2015-16
Welsh Women’s Aid welcomes the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) report published today, Tuesday 6 September 2016, which shows that the volume of violence against women and girls (VAWG) crimes prosecuted rose by almost 10% to 117,568 on the previous year and the highest level ever recorded.
The CPS is also convicting more defendants of domestic abuse, rape, sexual offences and child sexual abuse than ever before, securing over 8,500 more convictions, an 11% rise from the previous year. This sends a clear message to perpetrators that their actions will not be tolerated by the state, and there is a greater understanding and commitment by public services to end violence against women and girls.
However, despite this increase in volume, the conviction rate for VAWG crimes across England and Wales remains steady, and conviction rates within crime types still significantly differ with a 74.5% conviction rate for domestic abuse, 57.9% for rape and 78% for sexual offences. In Wales, although conviction rates for domestic abuse are slightly improved (76.3%), these are reduced for rape (53%) and sexual offences (73.8%).
The report also highlights the regional variations across police force areas in Wales. Gwent and South Wales have the highest conviction rates for domestic abuse cases (77.8% and 75.2% respectively). Dyfed Powys has a conviction rate of 74.7% while North Wales has the lowest conviction rate at 72.8%. It is worth noting that South Wales Police had more than double the number of domestic abuse cases at court than North Wales (2,578 compared to 854).
Dyfed Powys, while having the highest conviction rate for rape in Wales (64.5%) has the lowest conviction rate of any force area for sexual offences at 66% compared to the England and Wales total of 78%. While it should be recognised that South Wales has significantly higher volume of cases compared to any of the other force areas in Wales, it also has one of the lowest conviction rates for rape in England and Wales (45.3%). In South Wales and Dyfed Powys in particular, such levels of conviction for rape and sexual offences are worryingly low.
We welcome the CPS’s recognition of VAWG as “a form of offending where gender plays a part”. Violence against women is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, and a violation of human rights. It includes (but is not limited to) domestic abuse, rape and sexual abuse, female genital mutilation (FGM), so called ‘honour’ based violence and forced marriage, stalking and harassment, all of which are covered in the CPS report.
We also welcome the two new offences that the CPS began prosecutions for this year; revenge pornography and coercive or controlling behaviour. We are hopeful that criminalising coercive control will encourage those experiencing domestic abuse to seek police help earlier for the damaging, humiliating, and isolating abuse they experience and, as the CPS notes, it is promising that by March 2016 there were five successful prosecutions for the offence.
While we welcome the progress that has been made we are also aware that this report does not cover the thousands upon thousands of women who feel too scared to report or to pick up the phone to ask for help. More needs to be done to ensure that women have confidence to report abuse and to help women obtain justice, particularly for victims of rape and sexual offences.
To continue to improve conviction rates and encourage women to have confidence in a justice system that works for them, collaborative working with high quality and accessible specialist services is needed. This requires specialist services to be sustainably funded in order to meet the needs of women and offer them the support and protection they need to achieve independence.
Anyone in Wales who needs help and support to report to the police or through the court system, can contact Live Fear Free Helpline – 0808 80 10 800 – which provides 24-hour, bilingual, confidential help and support for victims and can put people in touch with local specialist services where this is needed.