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Volume 577: debated on Monday 10 March 2014

7. What assessment she has made of the proportion of reported rapes which resulted in prosecution or conviction in the last two years. (902909)

Rape is a devastating and under-reported crime. However, the coalition Government is committed to improving the response to rape at every point in the criminal justice system, which includes improving referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Whatever the rate of civilian success in prosecuting and investigating rape, it is higher than that in the Ministry of Defence system. Will the Minister agree to work with the MOD to improve joint police investigation and service prosecution of rape in the military justice system?

We are, of course, aware of one particular instance, of which the hon. Lady is doubtless also aware. I know that the Ministry of Defence has apologised to the family concerned for the failures that the coroner identified in that case. I shall be happy to work with my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to ensure that all the help that we can give them is available.

Successful prosecutions and help for victims have increased significantly in recent years. That is great, but does the Minister agree that rape is one of those crimes which are often not reported, particularly in certain communities in the United Kingdom, because of perceived shame or reticence? Could we not do more to encourage victims to discard that shame and be prepared to come forward and report the crime to the police?

I entirely agree. It is important for victims to come forward and to have confidence in the police. Indeed, I believe that that is the trend we are now seeing. Although, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, there has been a decrease in the number of sexual assaults, there has been a significant increase in the number of rapes reported to the police. That suggests that more people are confident about coming forward, which I welcome.

Will the Minister admit that, while on his watch the number of reported rapes is increasing, the number of files passed to the Crown Prosecution Service has fallen by a third, and in the Met the number of referrals is down by 43%? When will he accept responsibility for that, and admit that the Government’s decisions to remove suspected rapists from the DNA database and to cut the police force have let victims down and are allowing criminals to get away with it?

I did expect a very authoritarian question from a Labour Member. I wonder what the Labour party’s supporters in Islington and Hampstead make of its approach to Home Office questions.

The serious issue is that the CPS is currently involved in discussions with the police about rape referral levels in a number of forces. The Ministry of Justice and others are implementing the six-point plan to which the Attorney-General referred last year. The hon. Lady may also be aware that, along with the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, I have written to all chief constables and police and crime commissioners urging them to take rape even more seriously than they do already.