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Violence Against Women

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures his Department has taken to prevent street violence against women. [108157]

There is a range of Home Office initiatives designed to address different aspects of violent crime, including street violence.Measures which bear particularly on women as victims of street violence include the Action Plan published by the Home Office in July 2002 to implement the recommendations of the joint Inspectorates' report into the investigation and prosecution of rape cases. This sets out both strategic and practical measures to improve reporting and reduce attrition in rape cases. The Steering Group is led by the Home Office with officials from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Lord Chancellor's Department (LCD), both Inspectorates and the Association of Chief Police Officers. More effective criminal justice interventions are designed to have a direct impact on the number of sexual assaults and rapes.The street crime initiative announced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in March 2002 to combat the rising trend in robbery is benefiting both men and women as victims of violence. The initiative, backed with a £67 million package following the 2002 Budget, is focused in the 10 police force areas that accounted for 83 per cent. of recorded robbery during 2001–02: Avon and Somerset; Greater Manchester; Lancashire; Merseyside; Metropolitan Police; Nottinghamshire; South Yorkshire; Thames Valley; West Midlands; West Yorkshire.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures his Department proposes to take to encourage women to report rape and sexual assault. [108159]

The Home Office published its rape action plan in July 2002. The plan seeks to make a range of improvements, including better victim care, enhanced investigative practices, better case preparation and improved training. The aim is to improve confidence in criminal justice processes and provide better services for victims, so encouraging more victims to report crimes.We are working with the Crown Prosecution Service, the Lord Chancellor's Department, as well as the Association of Chief Police Officers and other stakeholders, to ensure that the plan is implemented.In addition, the Sexual Offences Bill includes a number of provisions designed to send a clear signal to everyone about the circumstances in which sexual activity will be presumed to be non-consensual. These are designed to give juries the best possible chance of reaching the right decision on what is one of the most difficult issues they can be asked to consider. We hope that this will encourage victims to place their faith in the criminal justice system and to bring more cases to trial.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the support services his Department has provided in each of the last five years to women who have been sexually assaulted. [108162]

The Home Office helps victims of all types of crime, including women victims of sexual assault, through its annual funding of the voluntary organisation Victim Support. Since 1998–99 the annual grant in aid to Victim Support has risen from £12.7 million to £30 million.Each year since 1997–98 Victim Support has received between 13,000 and 15,000 referrals for victims of sexual crimes, of whom between 4,000 and 5,000 have been victims of rape. The help offered is both sensitive and confidential, and can include onward referral to other types of support (such as counselling).Since April 2001 the Home Office has also been funding the Rape Crisis Federation to enable that organisation to provide core services such as training to its network of some 40 local rape crisis groups.