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Volume 176: debated on Friday 13 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what has been the trend in the number of reported rape cases in the last 10 years;(2) what is his estimate of the number of rapes each year which are not reported.

The numbers of offences of rape recorded by the police in England and Wales in the years 1979 to 1988 are published in table 2.9 of the "Criminal Statistics, England and Wales, 1988" (Cm 847); the figure for 1989 is published in Home Office Statistical Bulletin 10/90.Information on reporting and recording of sexual offences is published in table A.2 of "The 1988 British Crime Survey" (Home Office research study 111) and on rape in Table 2 of "Concerns about rape" (Home Office research study 106). Copies of all these publications are available in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has any plans to introduce legislation to protect the rights of the victim in rape cases in order to achieve a decrease in the number of unreported rape cases.

We have already strengthened and extended the law against public identification of complainants in rape cases; and we have changed the rules of court to stop routine disclosure of the addresses of witnesses on their statements. We are considering with the Law Society what more can be done to prevent misuse of certain witness statements which must be given to the defendant.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the minimum sentence for rape at present; and whether there are any plans to change this.

The maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment. The Court of Appeal has given detailed guidance on sentencing for rape, which indicates that a sentence of five years imprisonment should be the starting point for an adult found guilty of rape, without any aggravating or mitigating features. We have no plans to introduce a minimum penalty.