Press Release: Jill Saward’s fight for rape victims and survivors to continue posthumously

14 March 2020

The family of Jill Saward, who spent 30 years leading an inspirational fight for victims and survivors of rape and sexual violence before her sudden death in January 2017, have agreed to pledge money donated following her death to support a legal challenge against the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Jill Saward died suddenly in January 2017 following a stroke (subarachnoid haemorrhage).

A fund set up by friends, supporters and the public, raised just under £23,000 to continue her work. £10,000 of this will now be used to support a ground-breaking application for judicial review.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) has launched a major human rights based judicial review challenge against the CPS, arguing that a change in its approach to rape cases violates women’s rights to safety and justice. The EVAW Coalition strongly believes that a major change in policy and practice has occurred at the CPS, with senior leaders directing prosecution leads to “put a touch on the tiller” and effectively drop weaker cases.

Gavin Drake, Jill’s widower said, “We were unanimous in our agreement to use the funds donated in Jill’s memory to support this legal challenge. As soon as I read about the case, I knew that this was something that Jill would be supporting if she was still alive.”

“I was in the process of approaching Jill’s siblings and sons to ask whether they would support the appeal. Before I could contact them I was approached by two other people who heard of the appeal and thought that this would be a good use for the funds donated in Jill’s name.”

Jill Saward was raped in her home, the Ealing Vicarage, in March 1986 by a gang of burglars. She was 21. Her father and her boyfriend at the time both received fractured skulls at the hands of the perpetrators.

Because of the huge publicity surrounding the case, there was large scale public outcry for the way she was treated by the legal system, leading to several changes in the law.

“Her treatment was in no way unique”, Gavin Drake said. “But the publicity the case received shone a light on the way victims and survivors of sexual assault were treated by the criminal justice system. Many laws were changed as a direct result of her case and many more laws as a result of her campaigning work.

“But in recent years we have gone backwards, not forwards; and that is why I am convinced that Jill would be supporting the challenge by the EVAW Coalition. Last week, the Director of EVAW, Sarah Green, described the current situation as the effective decriminalisation of rape. I agree with her.

“In 2019 there were almost 60,000 reports of rape to the police, but fewer than 1,800 men were charged. And there were not even 1,000 convictions. This situation has to change, and the CPS must be held to account for the appalling conviction rate. Their management decisions, policy and practice must be opened to scrutiny by the courts to ensure that the CPS do not continue to violate
women’s human right to protection and justice.”

Before her death, Jill co-founded the JURIES campaign to call for jurors in rape and sexual violence cases to be given pre-trial briefings to challenge rape-myths. JURIES is a member of the EVAW coalition. Its other co-founder, Alison Boydell, said: “I worked closely with Jill on the JURIES campaign right up until the time she died. We shared the view that jury bias – whether conscious or unconscious – is a significant barrier to justice and it is the anticipation of what juries are likely to believe that influences charging decisions.

“Jill’s legacy will continue in a number of ways, one of which is the contribution of her fund to this cause to improve criminal justice outcomes for rape and serious sexual offences.”

Since her death, the funds donated in Jill’s memory have been kept secure by RASA Merseyside, a Merseyside-based support centre for victims and survivors of rape and sexual abuse.

Jo Wood MBE, Finance and Strategic Development Manager commented: “Jill was always a great supporter of RASA and the work that we do. I will never forget her sharing one cold wet afternoon in Liverpool City Centre appealing for support as we were struggling to survive. This current challenge to the CPS is exactly the sort of thing Jill would be actively supporting and commenting on and we feel it appropriate that funds raised in her name, to continue her work are used to further this aim”.

Gavin Drake is preparing to establish The Jill Saward Organisation as a platform to continue her fight.

People who wish to support the crowdfunding appeal for the judicial review against the CPS can do so online at