The Crown Prosecution Service is turning to specialist barristers in an effort to boost the number of convictions it secures in rape cases, it was disclosed today.

Three barristers specialising in sexual offence cases with more than five years' experience in arguing jury trials are being sought, primarily to present cases in the Crown Court. They will also advise police investigating rape cases, meet victims and mentor less experienced lawyers.

At present, only 6 per cent of rapes reported to police lead to a conviction ? 702 out of 12,867 in 2004.

Dru Sharpling, London's chief Crown Prosecutor, said: "The CPS wants to play its part in bringing more offenders to justice in rape cases.

"The low conviction rate is something that we must look at very carefully. We need to have a better understanding about best practice in the prosecution process so that we support the victims of crime effectively and build up in-house expertise by prosecuting rape trials in the Crown Court with our own specialist advocates."

The CPS already has more than 500 specialist rape prosecutors but this is the first time the organisation has sought to recruit lawyers with specialist skills from outside the service.

It believes that having expert prosecutors permanently on hand will improve its chances of securing convictions. At present in house CPS barristers act as junior counsel in prosecutions but the lead barristers are brought in from outside on a case by case basis.

A spokeswoman for the CPS said it would advertise for the barristers in the coming weeks and hoped they would begin work in late autumn.
 
 

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