Following a noticeable drop in the number of rape convictions among courts in the United Kingdom, Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, is questioning the way prosecutors are handling rape cases. According to statistics released by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the number of rape convictions fell to 2,300 in 2013 from 2,433 the year before. One of the most shocking rape cases that fell through the cracks of the legal system involved a suspect who was relieved of charges because the female victim was wearing Spanx.
In September 2013, the victim, identified as “Suzanne,” learned that her upcoming rape trial was being dropped by the CPS. Less than a year earlier in December 2012, Suzanne claimed her sexual partner at the time had followed her into her house and sexually assaulted her after she had spurned his advances. A letter Suzanne received explaining why her case had been dropped both shocked and appalled her.
“I have taken into account all the surrounding circumstances, including the exchange of text messages between you before and after the incident,” read the letter sent to her by a CPS lawyer. “I have also considered your account of the incident, particularly bearing in mind the type of underwear that you had on at the time.”
When Suzanne appealed the CPS decision, a CPS prosecutions manager admitted that the lawyer “made an unnecessary reference to the underwear that you were wearing which on my consideration of the evidence has absolutely no relevance to the issue in this investigation,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported. However, the manager added that the decision to drop the case was appropriate due to an alleged phone call Suzanne had with her attacker, asking him to come back.
Although Suzanne admitted the phone call took place, she said the account of the conversation was inaccurate. Phone records were able to provide the time and length of the call but not what was said. Answering in regard to if phone records were enough to corroborate the suspect’s story, a CPS representative told the BIJ: “This reference takes into account all of the communications between the complainant and suspect, including text messages, rather than looking at one phone call in isolation. In this context, the evidence tended to support the account given by the suspect.”
In light of these recent figures surrounding a drop in rape convictions, the CPS is considering a new protocol on handling rape cases. New guidelines introduced by the CPS in 2011 focused on the way police, prosecutors, and courts handled each rape case. While the number of rape offenses recorded by police had risen following the 2011 guidelines, the number of cases charged by prosecutors had fallen by over a third.