RMG data caveats

Comparing data

The RMG dashboard brings together:

  • Home Office data from the 44 police forces (including British Transport Police) in England and Wales;
  • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data; and
  • Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data.

It gives an overview which the public, police and crime commissioners and interested parties can use to improve their understanding of how cases of rape are handled in their area and to hold the responsible organisations to account.

While each organisation tries to ensure its data sets are as complete and accurate as possible, the way they collect data differs:

  • data may be collected over different timescales;
  • numbers can refer to the number of offences or the number of suspects/defendants; and
  • the way rape cases are identified varies between data collections.

These factors, together with the time lag between different stages in the criminal justice process, mean that each page or visualisation in the dashboard may not refer to the same cohort of cases and so meaningful comparison cannot be made across them.

Police-recorded data on rape

What data is recorded?

The latest dashboard presents the following police-recorded data:

  • number of recorded rapes from 2012/13 to 2017/18;
  • reported incidents of rape for 2017/18;
  • how many rapes were initially recorded as such, but subsequently transferred or cancelled (formerly no-crimes) from 2012/13 to 2017/18;
  • how many recorded rapes resulted in the suspect receiving a charge/summons from 2012/13 to 2017/18; and
  • broader ‘tracked’ outcomes for police rape investigations for 2015/16 to 2017/18.

How is data recorded?

Numbers in the dashboard refer to the number of offences, not suspects.

Timescales

This data is provided by financial year, for the 12 months to 31 March.

There is a time lag between each stage of the criminal justice process, between:

  • recording of the crime;
  • referral to the CPS for charging;
  • prosecution;
  • conviction; and
  • sentencing.

The cases referred to in each page of the dashboard may not follow on from each other.

For example, offences recorded in a given year may not result in a suspect being charged/summonsed until a following year. Similarly, charge/summons recorded in one year may be for rapes recorded in a previous year.

Where more than one crime type is involved in a single incident, the most serious of the offences – the principal offence – is counted. So, the charge/summons may be for a crime other than the one recorded.

Transferred and cancelled records:

  • Northamptonshire Police couldn’t give a breakdown of the number of transferred and cancelled records by type for the year ending 31 March 2016.
  • Derbyshire Constabulary changed its crime-recording system, so couldn’t give a complete breakdown of the number of transferred and cancelled records by type for the year ending 30 June 2016.

Police-recorded outcomes:

Data is no longer supplied for outcomes prior to 2015/16.

  • Suffolk Constabulary hasn’t given outcomes data for the year to 31 March 2017. All outcomes for this force have been recorded as ‘outcome not yet assigned’.
  • Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has resolved data problems from 2016/17. The impact of these problems was small at national level, and GMP data has been updated and backdated as part of the 2017/18 data refresh.

CPS data on rape

Which data is recorded?

Data in the dashboard is from the CPS Case Management System for cases flagged as ‘rape’. For CPS data, a rape flag may be applied at the beginning of a case (where it remains even if the charge(s) of rape are later amended or dropped) or applied later in the prosecution process if rape charges are subsequently preferred.

We present the following CPS data in the dashboard:

  • number of referrals from the police to the CPS for a decision on whether to charge a suspect with rape, and the number of those suspects charged from 2012/13 to 2017/18;
  • number of prosecutions flagged as rape that finish in each financial year, and the number of those prosecutions that end in a conviction from 2012/13 to 2017/18; and
  • reasons recorded for cases that do not result in a conviction from 2012/13 to 2017/18.

How is data recorded?

The numbers in the dashboard refer to:

  • number of suspects whose cases the police refer to the CPS for a decision on whether to charge them with rape;
  • those who are charged; and
  • number of defendants prosecuted and those who are convicted.

If a case has multiple suspects/defendants, an outcome for each will be counted separately, but could be recorded by the police as one crime. For example, if one victim is raped by two suspects it would be recorded as one crime but potentially two decisions to charge, two prosecutions and two convictions, and if one suspect rapes two victims this could be recorded as two crimes and potentially one decision to charge, one prosecution and one conviction.

Timescales

We give this data by financial year, for the 12 months to 31 March.

There is a time lag between each stage of the criminal justice process, between:

  • recording of the crime;
  • referral to the CPS for charging;
  • prosecution;
  • conviction; and
  • sentencing.

The cases referred to in each page of the dashboard may not follow on from each other.

For example, CPS data on referral decisions covers those cases, by suspect, forwarded to the CPS during a financial year for charging decisions. They are, therefore, not directly comparable in numbers with data on those prosecuted which covers cases, by defendant, finalised during the same financial year.

From 2014/15, the CPS has used a revised method of data interrogation and reporting, which includes figures for British Transport Police (BTP) in addition to the 42 police force areas (Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police are combined to make up the local area of London). Data for the 13 CPS areas will not align fully with data for constituent police forces as there will be a small number of cross-border prosecutions between CPS areas, as well as data from BTP.

MoJ data on rape

Which data is recorded?

Data in the dashboard is from the MoJ criminal justice statistics for crimes recorded as rape. We present the following MoJ data in the dashboard:

  • number of prosecutions for the principal offence of rape from 2012/13 to 2017/18;
  • number of convictions for the principal offence of rape from 2012/13 to 2017/18;
  • typical time from the defendant being charged with rape to eventual court result for cases completed from 2012/13 to 2016/17; and
  • average length of a custodial sentence for those convicted of rape across England and Wales from 2012/13 to 2016/17.

Please note: updated data could not be obtained before publication of the 2017/18 RMG dashboard for time from charge to court result, and average length of custodial sentences.

MoJ data includes attempted rape, to align with MoJ published figures.

How is data recorded?

Numbers in the dashboard refer to the number of defendants prosecuted and those convicted.

If a case has multiple defendants, an outcome for each will be counted separately, but could be recorded by the police as one crime. For example, if one victim is raped by two suspects it would be recorded as one crime but potentially two decisions to charge, two prosecutions and two convictions, and if one suspect rapes two victims this could be recorded as two crimes and potentially one decision to charge, one prosecution and one conviction.

Timescales

We give prosecutions, convictions, sentencing and timeliness data by financial year, for the 12 months to the 31 March. Note that previous RMG digests have published this data by calendar year and is therefore not directly comparable with this dashboard.

There is a time lag between every stage of the criminal justice process, between recording of the crime, referral to the CPS for charging, prosecution, conviction and sentencing. The cases referred to in each section of the dashboard may not follow on from each other.

For example, MoJ data on prosecutions covers those cases, by defendant, proceeded against at a magistrates’ court during a calendar year. They are, therefore, not directly comparable in numbers with convictions data which covers those cases, by defendant, finalised during the same calendar year. This is because many of those cases will be referred to the Crown Court for trial and, because of the time between the case being heard in the magistrates’ court and in the Crown Court, a conviction may occur in the following year.

Data on prosecutions and convictions from the MoJ are grouped into 42 local areas across England and Wales (Metropolitan Police Service and City of London Police data are combined to make up the local area of London). For data on convictions in the Crown Court, the area relates to the police force area where the crime was recorded; however, for data on prosecutions and convictions in the magistrates’ courts data, the area refers to the police force area in which the Local Justice Area is situated. Some cases that are initially recorded as a crime by one police force may be heard in a court that geographically corresponds to another force area, and MoJ conviction and prosecution numbers is be recorded as such.

MoJ data also includes offences that BTP recorded. These cases cannot be identified because MoJ information is collected from court data and cannot be directly linked to investigations made by an individual police force. Therefore, volumes by police force area are not directly comparable with the volumes provided in the police-recorded section or the CPS section.

Following an MoJ data cleansing exercise, a small number of revisions were made to 2004-2012 data, including those for rape. This has resulted in minor changes to some of the totals. More substantial changes have been made to 2013 and 2014 data as the result of data improvement work. This means that there is a small discontinuity in the series between 2012 and 2013 data so care should be taken when comparing trends across this period.

Prosecution volumes are all prosecutions that start with the offence of rape, but conviction volumes are only recorded for cases where the court took its final decision on the offence of rape. The final decision is not necessarily on the same offence for which the defendant was initially prosecuted, for example, when a court accepts a guilty plea from the defendant on a lesser charge.

Where more than one offence is considered in a court case, the offence that would/did attract the most severe sentencing outcome is deemed the principal offence and other offences also dealt with in that case would be ignored. If two offences in the same case attract the same sentence, the offence with the statutory maximum sentence is deemed the principal offence.

All these factors prevent meaningful comparison between the police-recorded data, MoJ data and CPS data in the dashboard.

Data sources

Data sources for police-recorded data

Data on recorded crime, outcomes and transferred or cancelled records are for the financial years 2012/13 to 2017/18, for 43 local areas in England and Wales (equivalent to the Home Office-funded police force areas).

Data comes from the Home Office police-recorded crime open data tables.

Police-recorded crime data are currently official statistics after being downgraded from National Statistics in January 2014.

Data sources for population data

Population data are ONS mid-2016 estimates from the 2011 Census, and can be found on the population estimates section of the ONS website .

Data sources for CPS data

CPS data on pre-charge decisions, charges, prosecutions and prosecution outcomes is for the financial years 2012/13 to 2017/18.

CPS data is taken from the CPS Case Management System.

The CPS collects data to assist in the effective management of its prosecution functions. The CPS doesn’t collect data which constitute official statistics as defined in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Data drawn from the CPS administrative IT system, as with any large-scale recording system, is subject to possible errors with data entry and processing. Thus, figures reported are provisional and subject to change as more information is recorded by the CPS.

The published data sets are available to download from the CPS website:
CPS data files – 201718 (Spreadsheet)

Data sources for analysis of MoJ data

MoJ data on prosecutions, convictions and sentencing is presented for the financial years 2012/13 to 2016/17.

The MoJ collates data on court proceedings via data extracts from court database administrative systems. Statistics on prosecutions, convictions and sentencing are either derived from the magistrates’ courts’ case management system (LIBRA), which holds magistrates’ courts records, or the Crown Court case management system (CREST), which holds the trial and sentencing data.

The published data sets are available on the statistics section of the MOJ website.

Data on timeliness is for the financial years 2011/12 to 2016/17, and is an alternative breakdown of data published as quarterly court statistics.

Statistics on the duration of criminal cases completed in the criminal courts are sourced from linking together extracts taken from CREST and LIBRA. The datasets are produced by collecting all Crown Court cases disposed of in the specified quarter and looking for a match for the defendant with the same offence in the magistrates’ court data. Records are linked based on a combination of variables including given name, middle name, family name, date of birth, sex, postcode, a committal date, and two identifiers: the Arrest/Summons Number (ASN) and the PreTrials Issue Unique Reference Number (PTIURN). The match rate is around 95 percent.

The published data set is available on the Criminal court annual statistics section of the MOJ website

MoJ data on cautions, prosecutions, convictions and timeliness are national statistics. National statistics are a subset of official statistics that have been certified by the UK Statistics Authority as compliant with its Code of Practice for Official Statistics

Definitions used

Term Definition
Adult/child In this dashboard ‘adult’ refers to a male or female victim aged 16 or over and ‘child’ refers to a male or female victim under the age of 16 years, in accordance with the definitions set out in the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Reports of rape that occurred in the past when the victim was under 16 years of age are recorded as child rape regardless of the age of the victim at the time the report was made. E.g. Victim was aged 54 at the time of reporting and aged 7 at the time of the sexual offence.
Crime codes We used the following crime codes:

Adult rape: 19C and 19F (rape of a female aged 16 years and over, and rape of a male aged 16 years and over).

Child rape: 19D, 19E, 19G and 19H (rape of a female child under 16, rape of a female child under 13, rape of a male child under 16, and rape of a male child under 13).

Police-recorded rape Recorded crimes are all crimes that must be notified to the Home Office. In general, attempting, conspiring, aiding, abetting, causing or permitting a crime is classified under the heading of the crime itself, though in certain cases it is shown separately.
Recorded crime covers all indictable offences, so includes all offences of rape. A comprehensive list of offences, together with principal legal definitions and explanatory notes, is on the Counting Rules for Recorded Crime (PDF document) pages on the Home Office website.

A crime (including rape) should be recorded where the circumstances as reported by, or on behalf of, the victim amount to that crime as defined in law and where there is no credible evidence to the contrary. A report of rape must be recorded as a crime in accordance with the provisions of the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR).

HOCR require that a crime should be recorded as soon as the reporting officer is satisfied that, on the balance of probability, a crime has been committed. The timing should be the earliest that the police force’s crime-recording system allows. In practice this is normally within 24 hours.

It is an England and Wales requirement that an incident should be recorded as a crime within a standard timescale of three 24-hour periods (known as the 72-hour rule) from the time the incident is first logged.

Incidents reported as rape In April 2015, an additional Home Office recording classification was introduced for the recording of reports of rape. All reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, made directly by the victim or via witnesses or third parties, and which are not immediately recorded as a confirmed crime, must be recorded on the force crime system as a reported incident of rape at the time that the report is initially made to the police. Therefore, all reports of rape, via any source, will be recorded by the police. Where the report is initially recorded as an incident but is later confirmed as a crime of rape, the police reclassify the incident record as a crime. Those not re-classified as a crime are not included in police-recorded crime counts.
Police-recorded rape outcomes In April 2014, the Home Office introduced a broader outcomes framework, covering the full range of ways in which the police might deal with a crime. The old detections regime focused on cases resolved with a charge, caution, penalty notice etc. but didn’t recognise community resolutions and left about 70 percent of all recorded crime with no formal outcome. This meant that there was no additional detail as to what action may have been taken or explanation why the police may have been prevented from reaching a criminal justice outcome. Police must now eventually assign one of the broader outcomes to every crime that is recorded.

The full outcomes framework includes outcomes that were included in the previous detections regime, as well as outcomes for other circumstances including crimes where there were evidential difficulties, prosecution was not possible or where a suspect was not identified. This new outcomes framework makes more transparent how the police deal with all recorded crime.

The statistical bulletin Crime Outcomes in England and Wales 2013/14 reflected the transition from the old detections to the new outcomes framework. The bulletin Crime Outcomes in England and Wales 2014/15 was the first publication based entirely on the new framework.

Population Population figures used are mid-2015 population estimates, estimated by the Office for National Statistics and based on the 2011 Census. These give the number of people who are usually resident within each local area.
Transferred or cancelled records (formerly ‘no-crimes’) In England and Wales, since April 2015, the recording of no-crimes has moved to a transferred or cancelled records system which disaggregates the reasons why recorded crimes have subsequently been cancelled. This allows more transparency in the removal of crime records and ensures that local and national crime data is accurate.

A recorded crime can be transferred or cancelled where additional verifiable information determines that no crime has been committed, or it is a duplicate crime of one already recorded).

Transferred or cancelled records are always recorded in the same financial year as the offence that was originally recorded. Before April 2015 it was not possible to breakdown the reasons for transferred and cancelled cases. Since April 2015, the recording of no-crimes has moved to a system which disaggregates the reasons why recorded crimes have subsequently been cancelled. This allows more transparency in the removal of crime records and ensures that local and national crime data is accurate.

There are four situations when rape crimes recorded by a police force may either be cancelled or transferred to another police force. Cases where an incident was not initially recorded as a crime are not included within transferred or cancelled records statistics.

Offences relating to rape may be transferred or cancelled in one of the following situations:

C1 Transferred: Crime committed outside the jurisdiction of the police force in which it was recorded – passed to the appropriate force.
C2 Cancelled: Additional verifiable information that determines that no notifiable crime occurred becomes available.
C3 Cancelled: Duplicate record or part of a crime already recorded.
C4 Cancelled: Crime recorded in error.

The transferred or cancelled records ratio refers to the number of rapes of adults/children that have been recorded and then later transferred or cancelled, compared with the total number of rapes initially recorded. It is calculated as the number of child/adult transferred or cancelled records recorded divided by the number of child/adult rapes recorded during the same time period and the number of transferred or cancelled records added together. This does not necessarily mean that, in a given year, the crimes recorded are the same ones transferred or cancelled.

Pre-charge decisions/referrals The Criminal Justice Act 2003 requires that the CPS undertake the decision to charge a person in all but the most minor or routine offences.

The police investigate the alleged offence and, in the case of rape, refer the case to the CPS for a pre-charge decision. Referrals in this dashboard refers to the number of suspects whose case the police refer to the CPS for a decision on whether or not to charge with rape, in one financial year.

The decision to refer the case should be made with early investigative advice from the CPS, as appropriate, and only if the supervising officer has determined that the available evidence meets either the Full Code Test (see below) unless the case is a custody case when the Threshold Test (see below) will apply.

In these cases, Crown Prosecutors will decide whether to charge a person with a criminal offence if the case meets the Full Code Test or, in cases where a suspect is to be remanded in custody, the Threshold Test, and will determine the appropriate charge or charges.

Although the police and the CPS work closely together, both organisations are independent of each other, and the CPS is responsible for the decision as to whether or not to proceed with an offence that has been charged.
Charging decisions are made in line with the Director for Public Prosecutions’ Guidance on Charging.

Full Code Test In all cases other than those in which it is intended that the suspect should be remanded in custody, the available evidence must be assessed to determine if the Full Code Test is met.

To meet the Full Code Test, a case must pass first an evidential test, and then a public interest test:

  • Evidential stage – the supervising officer must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each suspect on each charge.
  • Public interest stage – a prosecution will usually take place in rape cases unless there are public interest factors tending against the prosecution that outweigh those tending in favour. The public interest test will, almost invariably, be met in rape cases. In any event a decision to end a case purely on public interest grounds must be referred to CPS.

A realistic prospect of conviction here means that an objective, impartial and reasonable tribunal properly directed and acting in accordance with the law is more likely than not to convict the defendant of the charge alleged.

Threshold Test The assessment of the evidence on the basis of the Threshold Test must only be made when the suspect is not suitable for bail and not all the evidence is available at the time when they must be released from custody unless charged.

To meet the Threshold Test, the following criteria must be satisfied:

  • there is a reasonable suspicion that the person charged has committed the offence;
  • there are reasonable grounds for believing that further evidence will become available within a reasonable amount of time;
  • the seriousness or the circumstances of the case justifies making an immediate charging decision; and
  • there are continuing substantial grounds to object to bail in accordance with the Bail Act 1976 and in all the circumstances of the case it is proper to do so.

The Public Interest stage of the Threshold Test is based on the information at the time.

No further action If neither the Full Code Test or Threshold Test are met and the case cannot be strengthened by further investigation or CPS advice, or the decision does not require the assessment of complex evidence or legal issues, the supervising officer will not refer the case to the CPS and will make the decision to take no further action.

A decision to take ‘no further action’ on a rape case on public interest grounds, as with all indictable cases, must be considered by a prosecutor.

Charge/summons A charge/summons is the formal accusation of an offence. For rape, this is given for cases where the CPS decides to prosecute, on the basis that there is enough evidence and it is in the public interest to proceed.

Prior to April 2015, the charge/summons ratio was the number of charge/summons recorded in each financial year, divided by the number of recorded rapes over that same financial year.

Prosecution Prosecution is the process, instituted and carried out by due course of law, by which the innocence or guilt of a person charged with a crime is determined.

If an out-of-court disposal is not deemed appropriate for the particular offence or case, the next step is for court proceedings to be initiated.

Magistrates’ courts: all criminal cases start in magistrates’ courts, but rape cases will be sent to the Crown Court as they are indictable-only offences.

Crown Court: the Crown Court deals with more serious criminal cases such as murder, rape or robbery, some of which are on appeal or referred from magistrates’ courts. Trials are heard by a judge and a 12-person jury made up of members of the public.

Prosecution outcomes Convictions: the defendant is convicted following a prosecution, comprising the following.

Conviction after trial: the defendant pleads not guilty, but is convicted after the evidence is heard.

Guilty plea: the defendant pleads guilty.

Jury acquittal: the defendant is found not guilty by the jury after a trial in which the prosecution and defence are called on to present their case in the Crown Court.

Victim evidence does not support the case: the evidence of the victim of an offence does not support the prosecution of the defendant, leading to an unsuccessful outcome, but the victim has not retracted. The ‘reason title’ was amended in April 2013 to ‘the evidence of the victim does not come up to proof, but there is no retraction’.

Victim non-attendance: the victim is called as a witness in a trial, but fails to attend court.

Victim retraction: the evidence of the victim supports the prosecution case, but the victim refuses to be called as a witness, retracts, or withdraws a complaint.

Conflict of prosecution evidence: contradictions or inconsistencies arise within the prosecution evidence or unused material, or evidence or information produced by the defence gives rise to contradictions or inconsistencies in the prosecution evidence, providing sufficient doubt that there is a realistic prospect of conviction. This includes unreliable confession.

From April 2013, amended CPS monitoring guidance clarified that this reason is not to be used when the victim retracts, does not attend or their evidence does not come up to proof.

Essential legal element missing: the evidence available at the time of the issue failing to address a specific legal point, or there is a fundamental legal defect. The ‘reason title’ was amended in CPS monitoring guidance in April 2013 to ‘incorrect charging decision – legal element missing’; the updated guidance made it clear that this reason is not to be used when the victim retracts, does not attend or their evidence does not come up to proof.

Unreliable witness: this reason should be used for all cases where issues concerning a key witness have led to an unsuccessful outcome including ‘unwilling’, ‘unreliable’, ‘evidence retracted’, ‘does not come up to proof’ or ‘is intimidated’. The ‘reason title’ was clarified in April 2013 in CPS monitoring guidance to ‘key witness (non-victim) refuses to give evidence/retracts/not up to proof’.

Administrative finalisation: a prosecution cannot proceed because a defendant has failed to appear at court and a Bench Warrant has been issued for his or her arrest; or the defendant has died, or is found unfit to plead: or where proceedings are adjourned indefinitely. If a Bench Warrant is executed, the case may be reopened.

Sentencing Most convicted offenders in rape cases will be sentenced to immediate or suspended custody. Rape carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment but no minimum, and the length of sentence will be decided by the judge at a sentencing hearing.

The sentence length will depend on the specifics and severity of the offence, and on any aggravating factors, for example, abduction, abuse of trust or the use of substances to facilitate the attack or mitigating factors presented by the defence on behalf of the defendant.