Skip to main content

Victims and Witnesses in Court

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 4 July 2019

1. What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to support (a) victims and (b) witnesses giving evidence in court. (911724)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about how the justice system supports those who come before it, and witnesses and victims are an important part of that. One way in which the CPS supports victims and witnesses is through the pre-recording of cross-examination evidence, which takes considerable pressure off vulnerable witnesses. Following a successful pilot in three locations, the scheme was rolled out last month to a further six courts, including in Chester.

The latest Home Office figures show that only 1.7% of reported rape cases even reach the charging stage, so what measures has the CPS put in place to support rape victims giving evidence? What is being done to support the other 98.3% of victims?

The CPS takes seriously its role in ensuring that prosecutions do come before the courts. As the hon. Gentleman will know, a cross-governmental review into rape and sexual offences is under way and has already completed its first stage of collecting evidence. We are now looking at the whole system for rape and other serious sexual offences to see how we can improve every stage, including getting more prosecutions and convictions.

I will not go into the details, but we have had a sensitive local case in which a victim of child sexual exploitation was not supported. A trial did not take place, through no fault of her own. What further action can the Solicitor General take to ensure that victims are supported at all stages of the process?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Last month, I visited the CPS areas of London North and London South and talked about those very issues. I also visited SurvivorsUK, a charity that deals with male victims of sexual abuse, to talk about how we can support people before, during and after the process, which is a critical time.

It is indeed shocking that 98.3% of reported rapes are not even charged. In a significant number of those cases, further evidence is sought from the police by the CPS, but it simply is not provided. Has the Solicitor General asked the police and her colleagues at the Home Office why that is happening?

The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the importance of collaboration between the CPS and the police. I know that they work closely together, because I regularly meet the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is working with the police on matters across the board, including several relating to disclosure. I recently met Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave to ensure that we get people to come forward. The number of recorded serious sexual offences is going up, but we need to improve on that, and steps are being taken by the CPS.

With the greatest respect to the Solicitor General, this is an urgent situation and that is not an answer to the specific question. The reality is that the Crown Prosecution Service is referring matters back to the police, and the police are not coming back to the Crown Prosecution Service with that further evidence.

The Solicitor General mentioned a review in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders), but something has to be done about this now. Will she undertake a forensic analysis of why these statistics are so bad, and will she do something about it?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point that shows how the CPS and the police are working better together. The CPS is sending cases back to the police because it is reviewing those cases to ensure they are ready and will not fall when they go to court. Having spoken to the assistant commissioner, I know that 93,000 police officers have undertaken disclosure training to ensure they are better trained so that these cases are ready for trial and will secure successful prosecutions.