British prosecutors have been advised to disregard “sexts” and explicit images sent between people when handling rape cases.
The new guidance is just one of several suggestions that the Crown Prosecution Service has made as it attempts to address record-low rape convictions in England and Wales, the BBC reported.
The guidelines, posted on the CPS website, argue that prosecutors need to tackle rape myths and stereotypes in a time when ‘hook up’ dating sites and internet behavior has changed the ways in which people date and socialize.
“There have been massive changes to the way people live their lives in the last 10 years and this has undoubtedly transformed the way people interact, date and communicate with sexual partners,” Siobhan Blake, CPS rape lead, wrote of the new guidelines.
“For example, many teenagers believe that sending explicit photos or videos is a part of everyday life. Our prosecutors must understand this and challenge any implication that sexual images or messages equate to consent in cases of rape of serious sexual violence.”
The CPS has not offered new guidelines since 2012, and all new measures are aimed at dealing with digital material – an increasingly important part of people’s lives. The government body claimed that it worked with victim support groups to inform its suggestions.
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Other suggestions include the way trauma can effect the memory of a victim, how to handle cases involving same-sex violence and a threshold for reasonable lines of inquiry, which aims at protecting a victim’s privacy during an investigation.
Elle Reeves, the Labour Shadow Solicitor General, said the suggested measures are welcome.
“Negative stereotypes and myths about rape victims creates an environment where victims and survivors fear they will be judged or disbelieved,” Reeves said in a statement published on the Labour website. “I hope that this new guidance will be accompanied by training for prosecutors and a clear commitment from the CPS that improving rape prosecution levels continues to be a top priority for the CPS.”
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During 2019 and 2020, 1,439 alleged rapists were convicted of rape or lesser offenses, which is down 25 percent from 1,925 the previous year. The number of completed prosecutions had also fallen by a third to a record low of 2,102 in 2019-20.
The coronavirus pandemic is expected to further drive down the number of cases and create a significant backlog for 2021.