Rape Monitoring Group digests

Part of: Protecting people from violence and abuse Victims and resolutions

The Rape Monitoring Group (RMG) is a multi-agency group in England and Wales, which HMICFRS co-ordinates.

The RMG was established in 2007 to promote improvements in response to rape across the criminal justice system.

This page sets out:

Publications

Every year, the RMG publishes data of 44 different force areas in England and Wales (the 43 Home Office-funded police forces and the British Transport Police).

This data shows how cases of rape are dealt with at all stages of the criminal justice process.

The data is gathered from different sources, over different timescales. This makes tracking the results of specific cases difficult. What it does show is the scale of reported rape and the variation of outcomes.

From 2013 to 2016, this data was published in the form of individual force area digests. These digests are available in the publications section of the HMICFRS website. Since 2017, RMG published data in an interactive dashboard.

We intend that releasing the data in this format will promote a more thorough analysis of how rape is dealt with across the criminal justice system. The RMG encourages those involved in preventing rape and supporting victims to read the dashboard for their local area, to prompt discussions about what needs to improve.

RMG dashboard

Last updated: May 2018

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RMG data

The data brings together Home Office data (published by the Office of National Statistics) with data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

Detailed caveats make it clear where comparisons can be made, and clarify why comparisons may be harder to make.

For the complete data sheets, please see the RMG data webpage.

A note of caution in using the data

The numbers can’t ever tell the whole story. An increase in recording of rape may not be due to an increase in prevalence, but rather improvements in how the police record crimes, or may be because victims have more confidence in the criminal justice system.

Similarly, a reduction in recorded rapes may mean that victims are losing confidence in the authorities to treat them sensitively or, conversely, that police preventative strategies are working to reduce rape offending.

The police service works to prevent and therefore reduce crime, including rape. At the same time, the police service wants to encourage more victims to come forward and report rapes. Prevention and encouragement are not mutually exclusive activities. Both are necessary if rape is to be tackled more effectively.

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Reporting and convictions of rape

Rape cases not resulting in a conviction

There are many reasons why a reported rape may not continue to conviction; for example:

  • the victim does not wish for the case to proceed, for reasons such as fear of giving evidence in court;
  • the CPS advises that no further action be taken;
  • the offence is changed to something other than rape; and
  • the defendant is acquitted by a jury following a trial.

Cases involving sexual offences can often, by their nature, lack corroborating evidence, and in cases concerning two adults, can come down to complex decisions around consent and one person’s word against another. The process of investigation, charging decisions and preparing for court, and the trials themselves, can be very lengthy and involve scrutiny of the victim not seen for other offences.

At any time, victims may wish to withdraw from the process for:

  • fear of giving evidence in court;
  • fear that the process will be too distressing;
  • fear of being disbelieved or judged; or
  • as a result of delays.

Other factors in assessing the quality of response to rape

Convictions of the guilty are extremely important outcomes, but they are not the only important outcome for victims of rape.

For example, victims of rape in childhood sometimes disclose non-recent offences, not with a view to a prosecution, but because they have discovered the perpetrator may now have access to other children. A criminal prosecution may not be the outcome they are seeking, but they rightly expect police and other agencies to prevent reoffending.

In other circumstances victims of domestic abuse that involves rape may prioritise protection from violence and safeguarding over prosecution.

In some cases of child sexual abuse, prosecution is judged not to be in the best interests of the child.

Many victims will want specialist support around what they have experienced.

Under-reporting of rape

It is widely recognised that rape is under-reported, with many more rapes committed than are reported to and recorded by the police. The 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales found that, of respondents who had experienced a serious sexual assault (including rape) since the age of 16, two thirds of the victims told somebody about their most recent experience, but only one in six told the police.

The data held by the criminal justice system can therefore only provide a partial picture of the prevalence of rape.

In April 2015 the Home Office, working with the National Police Chiefs’ Council, established a statistical classification for allegations of rape made to police but which don’t result in the recording of a crime.

This is classification N100 (reported incident of rape) in the Home Office Crime Counting Rules.

Police are expected to record all allegations of rape they receive under this classification unless they immediately record the matter as a crime. This includes reports such as those made by unconnected third parties, those for which the initial information isn’t clear enough, where the alleged victim cannot be traced at the outset, or where the rape may have occurred in another police force area. This data seeks to close a gap between initial allegations and reports and actual recorded crimes.

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Framing the right questions

The data may prompt important questions for organisations responsible for dealing with rape such as the police (including police and crime commissioners), Crown Prosecution Service and Ministry of Justice.

For example:

  • What is being done to understand the nature and scale of rape in local communities, as well as regional and national trends?
  • When areas are compared with each other, why does the data vary widely?
  • What targeted prevention work happens?
  • What are the police and other agencies doing to encourage victims of rape to come forward?
  • How are resources deployed to tackle rape effectively and efficiently?
  • How experienced and well-trained are staff who deal with rape? In particular, do/will staff be trained on the matter of consent?
  • What intelligence analysis happens for rapes, in particular for transferred or cancelled rape offences?
  • What checks ensure all reports of rapes are being recorded properly and on a timely basis, regardless of how they come to the attention of the police, and fully in accordance with the National Crime Recording Standard?
  • Are police decisions to take no further action being appropriately taken and reviewed?
  • Does officer training include contributions from survivors of rape and specialist support agencies such as Rape Crisis and sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) and the Survivors Trust?
  • Does officer training include awareness of use of and referral for pre-trial therapy?
  • Do victims in this local area have access to the specialist services of an independent sexual violence advisor (ISVA)?
  • What do victims think of the services they receive?
  • How do victims’ views influence how they are treated?
  • Are investigations and prosecutions robust enough?
  • Are cases being referred to the CPS appropriately for early investigative advice, and then charging, having been properly assessed by police decision-makers as meeting the referral criteria outlined in the 5th edition of The Director’s Guidance on Charging?
  • What processes manage disclosure requests and information sharing between the agencies?
  • What constructive changes can be made to avoid or reduce delays in court hearings?
  • How are prosecution teams supporting the use of special measures in court, intermediaries and support techniques such as pre-trial therapy, for vulnerable victims?
  • Are there systems to ensure compliance with all current policies and procedures across the criminal justice system?
  • What has been done to implement new policy initiatives to improve the criminal justice response to rape?
  • What partnership arrangements support victims of rape?
  • How can criminal justice agencies explore how data could be collected to reflect the experience of victims, as well as for performance management and administrative purposes?
  • What good practice can be shared more widely?

This is not an exhaustive list. In addition (and depending on the interpretation of the data and local information for any particular area), other more specific questions may also need to be asked.

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