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Rape

Volume 540: debated on Tuesday 7 February 2012

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Crown Prosecution Service on improving the effectiveness of rape prosecutions. (93671)

I have regular discussions with the Director of Public Prosecutions on a range of criminal matters, including rape. The DPP, the Attorney-General and I take our duties in regard to rape prosecutions extremely seriously. The hon. Lady met the DPP in April last year to discuss rape prosecutions, and he wrote to her on 6 May setting out what the CPS is doing to improve the effectiveness of rape prosecutions.

Last week the chief prosecutor for London, Alison Saunders, called on the Government to start a public debate to bust some of the myths about rape victims which prevent successful prosecutions. Will the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General agree to work with ministerial colleagues to begin a Government-led campaign to address the misrepresentations of and misconceptions about rape victims which get in the way of successful prosecutions?

Of course we will. I am already a member of the inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls, and as I indicated a moment ago I take my responsibilities with regard to the prosecution of rape cases extremely seriously. I have personally appeared in a number of applications to the Court of Appeal, dealing with unduly lenient sentences passed in relation to rape victims. We want to improve the attrition rate and the conviction rate, and the hon. Lady can be assured that this Government and these Law Officers are fully behind that momentum.

On the prosecution of sexual offences, the number of child sexual offences reported to the police last year was about 17,000, and the number of prosecutions was about 4,000. Does the Solicitor-General know the reason for that gap?

I do not know—I have no empirical evidence that I can deploy this afternoon—but clearly there is an absence, often in such cases, of evidence that has reached the state in which it can be taken to court. My hon. Friend will know from his practice at the Bar that it is essential that we have adducible evidence to put before the court. Without evidence, we cannot prosecute.