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Outcomes for Rape Victims

Volume 698: debated on Tuesday 29 June 2021

We are taking steps to ensure that we tackle this horrific crime and restore confidence in the criminal justice system, as outlined in the rape review that was published 10 days ago. We will return the volume of rape cases going through the courts to at least 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament and are taking steps to improve the quality of investigations and reduce the time taken for victims to be given their phone back during the course of investigation. Furthermore, we are going to improve the culture of joint working among police and prosecutors and hold each part of the system to account through performance scorecards.

The Crown court backlog currently stands at a record high of almost 60,000 cases, and figures show that there has been a 67% rise in the number of sexual offences cases awaiting trial. In the Secretary of State’s own words, rape victims have been “failed” by this Government. The rape review accepted that court delays have contributed to the plummeting number of rape prosecutions. Rape victims deserve a criminal justice system that works for them and not against them, so why did the Government vote against Labour’s amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that called for the fast-tracking of rape cases to be rolled out across England and Wales?

The hon. Lady is quite right that delay in the criminal justice system, both from report to charge and then from charge to court, has a significant impact on victims and is a driver of victim attrition and cases therefore not proceeding. We are very focused on compressing each of the various parts of the criminal justice system so that they work efficiently and speedily, in line with the need to get quality cases into court that will hopefully secure convictions. While we have not supported the measures that she put forward for the Bill, she will in time be able to see the performance and the timeliness of various parts of the criminal justice system through the publication of comprehensive scorecards, which will allow us to judge, over time, first, whether the number of cases in court rise, which I believe they will quite significantly, but, secondly, whether more measures are needed to be taken to drive further progress.