UK

Rape accuser 'devastated' at case being dropped

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Media caption"I did everything right, everything that you should do"

A woman who says she was raped by a man she had been on a date with has told the BBC she was left "devastated" after prosecutors decided to drop her case.

Annie Tisshaw says her mental health "really suffered" during the year-long investigation, and she was then told the CPS would not proceed further.

A report shows the number of rape convictions in England and Wales is at its lowest level since records began.

There were 1,925 convictions in 2018-19 - a 27% drop from the previous year.

This was in spite of allegations of rape reaching a high of 58,000 in England and Wales.

Campaigners say the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has changed its approach in rape cases - no longer building rape prosecutions, but screening cases out if they think a jury will not convict.

This is denied by the CPS, which has announced a review of its decisions in rape cases.

Annie, who has waived her right to anonymity, told the Victoria Derbyshire show that she was raped in her own flat after she had been on a date with a man she had met a few times before.

She says she reported the incident straight after it happened, handed over her phone, and the case was passed by police to the CPS, who told her it was "a positive case".

"I've done everything right that you should do and then at the end, nearly a year later, I was told there were inconsistencies in the case."

Those included CCTV from earlier in the night, which showed she wasn't looking "particularly scared or nervous", and text messages sent before the alleged rape, she says.

"This was a guy that I trusted, this was a guy that I had met before, so obviously at that time I didn't know it was going to happen," she says.

"My mental health really, really suffered throughout the police case. It's devastating that I've gone through all of that and it's just been dropped."

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Media captionBonny Turner says the CPS dropped her case even though her alleged rapist apologised to her on Facebook Messenger

Another woman, Lizi, told the BBC she spent "49 weeks of my life consumed by anxiety and anorexia" before she heard her case was being dropped.

"All I really remember from that call is screaming and sobbing," she said.

The annual Violence Against Women and Girls report shows the number of reports of rape that end in a conviction is about 3%.

The figures also reveal that the number of suspects charged with rape or another offence has fallen, from 2,822 in 2017-18 to 1,758 in 2018-19.

In 2007-08, 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.

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Media captionDirector of Public Prosecutions Max Hill says he "would be worried" by the figures if he were a victim of sexual violence

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 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.

'Abandoning thousands of cases'

A coalition of women's organisations, represented by the Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ), is looking to take legal action against the CPS over claims cases are being "dropped" without good reason.

Lawyer Harriet Wistrich, founder of the CWJ, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there was "compelling" evidence the collapse in prosecutions was mainly caused by "a deliberate change in the approach taken by the CPS dating back to late 2016".

Dame Vera Baird, the victims' commissioner, called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to intervene by giving the justice system adequate resources and funding support services for survivors.

She questioned whether "abandoning thousands of cases of potentially traumatised men and women" was "ineptitude" or "deliberate policy" by prosecutors.

Max Hill, director of public prosecutions, denied there had been a change in approach from prosecutors at the CPS, but said he shared concerns at the "growing gap" between reported rapes and the number of prosecutions.

He told Today: "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."

Deputy Chief Constable Sarah Crew, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for rape and adult sexual offences, said the decline in convictions reflects "a justice system that is stretched and under pressure".

But she said police were working with victims' groups to address issues that prevent people from reporting rape or from continuing to support an investigation.

The independent CPS watchdog, Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, has also launched a review of charging decisions in rape cases.

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