On 5th June 2018, The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) published the outcome of its review of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO) cases. In January the CPS announced its senior prosecutors were assessing all cases in England and Wales in which someone had been charged with rape or serious sexual assault. More than 3,600 cases were looked at to ensure that disclosure was being managed effectively.
This additional scrutiny was undertaken after concerns were raised over how disclosure was handled by the CPS and the police, following decisions to stop several prosecutions late in the process. Specialist RASSO prosecutors assessed each case to be satisfied that the police had pursued all reasonable lines of inquiry, and that there was a clear strategy for disclosure to be carried out effectively and in a timely manner.
In total, 3,637 cases were assessed; some were at an early stage, while others were close to trial, and the reviews were concluded by February 13. Prosecutors identified where additional work was required, either to strengthen the prosecution case or to be satisfied that the evidence continued to support the decision to prosecute. In many cases, the police were asked to conduct further investigations.
The cases that were stopped during the review period were subjected to further, detailed analysis. This was in order to identify whether there were any concerns about how disclosure had been handled, and any common themes that should feed into improvement work already under way.
Forty-seven prosecutions for rape or serious sexual offences which were stopped in that period were found to have issues with the disclosure of unused material.
Common themes identified included communications evidence such as texts, emails and social media being examined too late in the process, the failure to identify and obtain material such as medical or social services records and the emergence of new evidence after charge.