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End-to-End Rape Review

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 1 July 2021

I recognise the need to restore the faith of victims of these horrific cases. The recently published rape review outlines the Government’s ambition to ensure that justice is served and more cases progress through the system. The CPS is fully committed to delivering actions under the rape review, and those will result in improved joint working between police and prosecutors, to build stronger cases earlier and with less intrusion into victims’ private lives.

The review includes setting the CPS targets of getting rape prosecutions up to 2016 levels. Labour has said that the Government should return to those levels by next year, not by the end of the next Parliament—something the Lord Chancellor said was “constitutionally illiterate.” Will the Attorney General confirm whether the Government intend to stick to those targets, or have they already U-turned on that?

The matter to which the hon. Lady refers is for the Ministry of Justice, but she is right to raise it because cases involving rape and serious sexual offences are some of the most challenging and complicated cases—I emphasise that—with which the CPS deals. That is why only prosecutors with specialist training manage these incredibly sensitive, time-consuming and complex cases. The CPS is committed to ensuring that specialist prosecutors are equipped to deal with the complexities and sensitivities of those types of case.

For example, in May, the CPS published revised rape legal guidance, following public consultation, including new content on challenging rape myths and stereotypes, and a trauma-informed approach. The reason I raise that is that speed is important, yes, but it is also right that the complexities and sensitivities of those cases are handled by highly trained and professional CPS lawyers. That is what is happening.

The Government’s end-to-end rape review has been a missed opportunity to address the systemic failures in our criminal justice system. In the Attorney General’s own words, rape victims “are being failed” by this Government. After a two-year wait, the review offers only piecemeal pilots, tinkering around the edges and next to no new funding. When the dire rape conviction statistics were raised with the Prime Minister last week in the House, he dismissed that as “jabber”—a disgraceful response. Will the Attorney General apologise on behalf of the Prime Minister?

The hon. Lady is mischaracterising what was said last week. The cross-Government rape review was published on 18 June. It has produced key actions: an initial ambition to return volumes of cases progressing through the system to pre-2016 levels by the end of this Parliament; an ambition to ensure that no victim is left without access to a mobile phone for more than 24 hours; the launching of pathfinder projects to test innovative ways for the police and the CPS to approach rape cases—so much has been included in the rape review.

I very much accept, as I said in the rape review’s opening paragraphs, that a great deal needs to be done and that we are not happy with where the process has been. A great deal of work is going into that, however, and increased support for victims throughout the criminal justice system is important. That is happening, including through increased provisions, for example, with ISVAs—independent sexual violence advisers.

I am disappointed by the number of questions we have got through today. In future, I hope, we might be able to get through quite a few more. I will now suspend the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements to be made for the next business.

Sitting suspended.