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Service Prosecution Authority (Sex Offences)

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Service Prosecution Authority on its effectiveness in prosecuting rape and other sexual offences in the armed forces which took place (a) in the UK and (b) overseas. (906839)

The Attorney-General and I meet the director of service prosecutions regularly and discuss casework issues at those meetings, including the prosecution of rape and other sexual offences, whether they are alleged to have been committed here or overseas. The Service Prosecution Authority has adopted CPS best practice guidelines to make sure that sexual offences are prosecuted to the highest standard.

Does the Minister agree that decisions to prosecute allegations of rape and sexual assault in the military should be subject to an independent review, given that only five cases of alleged rape were prosecuted in 2013?

It is difficult to compare the CPS with the SPA because the sheer number of cases before the SPA will be much lower. When it comes to decision making on prosecution, CPS best practice is replicated in the SPA, and joint training and a lot of joint working takes place. The problems identified by the Liberty report, among others, are more to do with the investigation of offences as opposed to their prosecution.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is very nice to be popular.

Does the Attorney-General agree that the very low level of rape and sexual assault prosecutions in the military is a direct result of both a lack of independent scrutiny by civilian authorities and the discretion given to commanding officers to hear cases summarily themselves? Does he think it would be helpful if regular inspections of the Service Prosecution Authority were to be put on a statutory footing?

May I first welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position and offer warm congratulations to him? The point he makes is perhaps more relevant to other types of sexual offences that are not included in the schedule to the Armed Forces Act 2006. When it comes to rape and serious sexual offences, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the rigorous standards used by the CPS are those adopted by the SPA as well. The joint training and joint working I mentioned allow the Attorney-General and I the reassurance we need to make sure that these serious matters are prosecuted effectively.