In the past three years, the conviction rate for rape has continued to increase steadily. In the calendar year 2010, the conviction rate was 59.1%; it then went to 61% and then to 64.3%, which reflects the commitment of the Crown Prosecution Service to robust prosecution of rape offences.
Yes, my hon. Friend makes an important point. The Director of Public Prosecutions has led the training of specialist CPS rape prosecutors, 800 of whom have now been trained, and they have done a wide range of units to ensure that they are fully aware of all the ways that it is necessary to prosecute such cases.
Some of the victims are children, and one reason why conviction rates are low is the way in which they are treated during the trial process. It is disgusting that small girls are further abused by grown men, being taunted for hours on end as liars. What will the Solicitor-General do about it?
The hon. Lady makes a very important point about the way in which the cases are conducted, and there is a role for advocates and judges in ensuring that cases are dealt with properly. “The Advocate’s Gateway”, a guidance document by the Advocacy Training Council that has had input from the legal profession and the judiciary, has recently been launched. It deals particularly with this issue, and I think it will make a major contribution to the way in which cases are handled.
Is the Solicitor-General satisfied that the CPS is making timely application for special measures in cases involving young victims in sex offences, and that lessons have been learned from some of the cases that went badly wrong?
The Solicitor-General will be aware that in the year up to September 2012, 1,243 sex offences resulted in a caution. Does he agree that it would be helpful to know a lot more about those cases, and to look at how they might impact on the conviction rates and how those offences are dealt with?
Yes, research is important in this area. I sit on a ministerial group on violence against women and girls that is trying to examine these issues, with the help of the voluntary organisations. The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point and I will look into it.
Given the recent appalling cases involving young victims and witnesses, does the Solicitor-General not agree that the damage done to those young people as they go through the court process is far too great? Is there not a sense of urgency to the issue? This simply cannot wait. Young people should not be put through such appalling damage during the court process when they have already suffered such distress and harm.
Yes, I agree. It is right to bear in mind the fact that all those in the legal profession, including the judges, are concerned about the issue too, because what has been happening has been wrong. I agree that the matter is urgent. I welcome “The Advocate’s Gateway”, which is a useful initiative to which all parties have signed up. It should make a major difference. Proper case management is the key.