New measures have been set out to tackle falling conviction rates in rape cases and the issues that prevent them from successfully going through the courts.
A new national rape action plan will tackle the barriers that rape cases face in the criminal justice system, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.
The Yorkshire Post revealed in March that more than 9,000 people were estimated to have been raped in the region last year - but ultimately just over 200 people were convicted at court.
The national plan has been devised by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Alison Saunders and Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the national policing lead for adult sexual offences, who headed up a task force to investigate falls in rape convictions rates and the number of referrals from police to prosecutors.
They have called for a renewed challenge to tackle the “persistent myths and stereotypes” they believe have a negative impact on cases.
Ms Saunders said: “I am determined to ensure our long-term progress to tackle rape continues, particularly in dispelling the myths and stereotypes surrounding these types of cases.
“The new action plan makes very clear that, as with cases of child sexual abuse, the focus of any investigation and case preparation should not be on the credibility of the victim but on the credibility of the overall allegation, including the actions of the suspect.”
Among the measures announced today are steps to ensure that there is better application of laws over consent, and that police and prosecutors focus on what steps a suspect may have taken to gain consent from an alleged victim.
The plan will also see the updating of the national rape protocol that is used by the police and the CPS for investigating and prosecuting rape cases.
Decisions made by police to take no further action in rape cases will be put under closer scrutiny, including monitoring of the quality of record-keeping and the authorisation of decision making, and new practical guidance will be issued to front-line police and prosecutors.
CPS rape and serious assault units will also be reviewed, as will the appointment of appropriate lawyers for rape trials, and a national conference will be convened later this year for all police and prosecutors specialising in rape cases to discuss key issues.
Last month the CPS and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that there were 2,300 rape convictions in 2013, down from 2,433 in 2010, while 129 fewer rape suspects were convicted in 2013 than in 2012. In the last year the number of completed prosecutions and convictions has increased, the CPS said, but the conviction rate has dropped from 63.2 per cent in 2012-13 to 60.3 per cent in 2013-14.
But new figures show an eight per cent rise in the volume of police referrals for 2013-14, compared with 2012-13, and the CPS charged 700 more defendants over the same period, an increase of 25 per cent.
Meanwhile, a lying law graduate who falsely accused her boyfriend of rape so she would have an excuse for failing her legal exams was yesterday found guilty at Bristol Crown Court of perverting the course of justice.
Rhiannon Brooker, 30, claimed Paul Fensome, 46, forced her to have sex with him on 11 occasions and faked injuries to suggest he beat her.
Mr Fensome, a 6ft 8in tall heavy metal fan, was arrested, charged and held in custody for 36 days before police realised there was no evidence against him.