Yvette Cooper
Labour Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper wants to give victims of sexual abuse power to challenge the policeReuters

Labour is set to empower victims of sexual abuse by granting them the right to challenge police decisions where suspects have not been prosecuted.

The proposals would enable victims to ask for a review of the case where police have identified suspects, but not passed the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The new policy would begin with cases of rape and sexual exploitation of children.

The CPS has a Right to Review scheme, where victims of sexual abuse can seek a review of the body's decision not to bring charges or if proceedings are ended. Labour plans to widen this to include decisions made by the police.

Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper said: "Rape and child sexual exploitation are vile crimes that ruin lives and destroy families.

"Too often victims and survivors aren't listened to and aren't heard, especially children.

"And although reports to the police have gone up, arrests and prosecutions have gone down," she added.

Sex abuse being 'hidden'

The Guardian reported that in 2013-2014, 12,952 adult rape and 7,775 child rape allegations were recorded by police in England and Wales, but only 5,850 cases – or 28% - of all recorded rape were passed on to the CPS for a charging decision.

"Right now if the police decide not to pursue a crime, there is little more victims or their families can do. That's not good enough," Cooper said.

"We'll change the law so that if the police decide to drop a case after a suspect has been identified, victims will have a new right to challenge their decision.

"It's time to change the culture, stop these awful crimes being hidden away and put victims in the driving seat."

Should a case not be pursued, it would follow the CPS process of local resolution followed by an independent review, but only after being checked by a prosecutor without prior involvement in the matter.

Victim's appeal

The party has said that victims would receive a clear and detailed explanation of the decision and that the local resolution would usually be done within 10 days of receiving a request for review.

Should the victim still be dissatisfied with the local resolution, the decision would be reassessed by another prosecutor.

The move has been welcomed by the head of the National Policing Improvement Agency, Peter Neyroud. "It is critical that victims have a right to review decisions all the way from the duty to record and allegation, through to decisions on whether to pursue a prosecution," he said.

"It is critical that victims have a right to review decisions all the way from the duty to record and allegation, through to decisions on whether to pursue a prosecution," he said.

"Not only does this put the spotlight of accountability on the police, but it also gives the victim an important additional opportunity to influence their case and understand the decisions.

"Sometimes this will encourage a fresh angle to the case; sometimes there will be no new avenues. But there should always be a full and frank explanation of the steps taken to bring an offender to justice and the rationale for police decision."