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Rape and Domestic Violence

Volume 600: debated on Thursday 15 October 2015

4. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to improve the conviction rate for rape and domestic violence in the last two years. (901579)

8. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to improve the conviction rate for rape and domestic violence in the last two years. (901584)

This year, more cases of violence against women and girls have been referred from the police, charged, prosecuted and convicted than ever before. The work undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service and the police on rape and domestic abuse culminated in the highest volumes ever of prosecutions and convictions in 2014-15.

In the West Mercia region, in which my constituency is located, we have seen the rape crisis go up this year to 700 from 400 cases. Can my hon. and learned Friend assure me that we are doing everything we can to make sure that these people are prosecuted?

CPS West Midlands has a specialist rape and serious sexual offences unit in recognition of the increasing volume of rape and serious sexual offences reported. CPS West Midlands has increased the size of the unit and the team continues to work very closely with the police, victims groups and the independent Bar to ensure that strong cases are built and witnesses looked after.

I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his original answer. Has he brought forward any specific steps to support an increase in convictions where men are the victims of rape or domestic abuse?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, and let me assure him that when it comes to the prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences, it applies equally to men as to women. Boys, of course, can also sadly be the victims of sexual abuse. Sentencing guidelines, of course, draw no distinction of gender, and neither should the investigation or prosecution of offences.

Despite claims of the highest number of convictions ever, the fact is that in the last year the number of convictions for rape, domestic abuse and other serious sexual offences has fallen. What is the Solicitor General going to do to turn those worrying figures around?

I think the hon. Gentleman means that the rate has fallen slightly. I think it important to continue to prosecute more and more of these cases. For too long, many victims have found that their cases have not even been brought to court. Looking at the analysis of rape convictions, I am encouraged to see that the number of convictions that have not been brought because of a prosecution failure is reducing, so drilling down and looking at the reasons for the non-convictions is very important. We have to continue progress in that direction.

Successfully prosecuting rape and domestic violence cases clearly requires a properly resourced CPS, yet the budget has been slashed by 25% since 2010 and the rate of ineffective and cracked trials owing to prosecution issues is at a five-year high. With senior respected personnel leaving and expressing grave concerns, do the Solicitor General and the Attorney General really believe that the CPS can sustain more cuts on the same scale and still deliver justice?

I am afraid that the hon. Lady is in error when she suggests that the number of ineffective trials is at an all-time high. As I have said, the number of cases being prosecuted continues to increase, and there is no question of prosecutions not being brought because of a lack of resources. Rape and serious sexual offences units are well resourced, and they will continue to be resourced by the CPS.