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Violent Crime

Volume 579: debated on Monday 28 April 2014

The number of charges brought for violent crime has fallen. This is broadly in line with falls in police-recorded violent crime under this Government, but in fact the percentage of violent offences that result in a charge has increased under this Government. In addition, the independent crime survey for England and Wales for 2012-13 shows the number of violent crimes at its lowest level since 1981.

Does the Minister share my concern about some of the offences for which community resolutions are now used? I think of crimes such as domestic violence and knife crime. Does he not think that community resolutions should be banned for such offences, although they might be the best remedy for others?

I share the hon. Lady’s concerns about any inappropriate sentencing, so I am sure she will welcome the steps the Government have taken, such as stopping the use of cautions for serious offences, including those involving the possession of a knife, offensive weapon or firearm in a public place. Community resolutions and cautions have a part to play, but we have taken steps to ensure they are not used for the most serious crimes.

The Minister seems to think that community resolutions can be appropriate for violent crime, but does he think that even in those circumstances they should perhaps form part of a criminal record at least?

The hon. Lady will know that we are looking at the whole issue of out-of-court disposals. We want to reach a position where the use, as she says, of community resolutions is restricted to crimes where this is appropriate, but not for those where such a resolution would damage the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system. I hope she acknowledges that the amount of violent crime in this country is at such a low level now.

Before a prosecution is made, the police first have to record a crime. In Lincolnshire, more than a quarter of all reported rapes are dismissed as “no crime”, compared with a national average of 9%, and there are similarly high rates in other police areas. A police whistleblower claims that officers in some forces pressurise vulnerable victims to drop their allegations to make the crime statistics look better. What action has the Minister taken to explain and reduce the extreme variation in the number of rapes categorised as “no crime” by different police forces?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s underlying concern, but I hope he will be reassured that the “no crime” rate for rape has fallen year on year, from 12.6% in 2010 to 9.6% in 2013. At the same time, the Crown Prosecution Service is now achieving its highest ever rape conviction rate, with 63% of prosecutions resulting in successful outcomes and the average custodial length going up 21 months over the past 10 years. Everyone shares the concerns, but the hon. Gentleman should be reassured that the position is actually improving.