WORK to improve the ‘end-to-end criminal justice process’ is needed for rape investigations, a senior police officer has said – after it was revealed that there were no convictions during 2021 and 2022.
Alison Fossey, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, admitted that the lack of successful prosecutions ‘inevitably… has the potential to put victims off’, with the majority of allegations not meeting the evidential threshold to be passed to the Law Officers’ Department.
During 2021 and 2022, a total of 113 rape allegations were made – but only five went to court. Of those, one prosecution was discontinued while four were not guilty at trial. A total of 32 allegations are still being investigated, according to figures released in a recent written States question.
Detective Superintendent Fossey said: ‘There’s a need to explore ways to improve the end-to-end criminal justice process. This includes good governance, accountability and responsibility if we are to improve attrition rates.
‘The majority of cases are not passed to the LOD as the evidential threshold is not met. In Jersey 42% of victims do not make formal allegations by giving a statement as they do not support a prosecution. There are many understandable, and complicated, reasons why victims may not support further action. These include: fear of the criminal justice system; the need to move on; negative effect on mental health and wellbeing; and lack of support from family, friends or employers.’
On average, rape investigations take over a year to get from the reported crime date to a court date.
‘Lengthy investigations undoubtedly have an impact on a victim’s ability to cope and recover and may lead to some withdrawing their support from the prosecution process. But victims withdrawing their support are far fewer in number than those who don’t support further action from the start,’ Det Supt Fossey said. ‘This is the challenge we must focus on.’
She added: ‘In cases not supported by the victim from the start, the details of the offence can sometimes be vague, resulting in a lack of investigative opportunities. Although this doesn’t rule out an investigation progressing, it does make it extremely difficult to gather the evidence and information needed. It is unlikely that the evidential threshold will ever be met without the victim’s support.’
Meanwhile, it was also revealed that 2,235 domestic violence incidents were recorded during 2021 and 2022, of which 828 led to criminal investigations, with 151 successful prosecutions.
St Martin Constable Karen Shenton-Stone successfully lodged an amendment to the 2021 Government Plan to set aside £200,000 for a taskforce and research on sexual and domestic violence and harassment in Jersey, including drink-spiking. Originally, the taskforce’s review was specifically geared towards looking at violence against women, but went on to focus on ‘gender-based violence’. The findings from the research carried out by the taskforce are expected to be released in July.
Det Supt Fossey said: ‘Domestic abuse offences can sometimes be equally as complex to investigate. These offences like sexual offences often take place in private and there can be a lack of corroborating evidence. Again, like victims of sexual offences many victims of domestic abuse do not support a prosecution (47%). The reasons are also very complex and can include matters of finance, accommodation, children, threats and fear of retribution.
‘The police are committed and determined to make improvements. We cannot, however, solve these types of crime alone – it’s a societal problem not unique to Jersey. The work to improve justice for victims of domestic and sexual offences must be done in partnership, bringing together the police, government, justice agencies, the voluntary sector and communities. This is the work that is currently being undertaken by the government on Violence Against Women and Girls.’