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Rape Cases: Conviction and Prosecution Rates

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2021

In June we published the interim rape review report and action plan, which sets out plans to significantly improve the way the criminal justice system responds to rape. We are expanding pre-recorded cross-examination under section 28 for victims of rape and sexual violence, rolling out a new investigatory model known as Operation Soteria and introducing a single source of 24/7 support for victims of rape and sexual violence.

According to a recent report from the Victims Commissioner, just 1% of rape cases made it to trial. The Minister is telling me that these new measures are trying to improve that record. However, many rape victims recorded that their sexual history and mental health records were “pulled apart”, so will he commit to a radical reform of Crown Prosecution Service governance as called for by the End Violence Against Women Coalition to make sure that victims of rape are not treated as suspects?

The hon. Lady makes an excellent point. Given the location of her constituency she will be aware that the main pilot we will be holding for Operation Soteria is with Avon and Somerset police. Let me explain to the House the importance of this pilot. Instead of the usual single officer investigating allegations of rape, we will instead have two officers, one of whom will have primary responsibility for liaising with the victim. A key part of that is to avoid the attrition whereby those who have been victims drop out and lose confidence in the system. We want to restore confidence in the system and show the whole country that we have a joined-up approach to tackle the root causes and improve investigation of all rape cases.

Does my hon. Friend think it is right that victims of rape and domestic abuse should have to pay child contact costs to maintain their abuser’s contact with their child?

Let me first add my comments to those of the Secretary of State in terms of the experience of my hon. Friend. She has been incredibly courageous. I am speaking on behalf of the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who I will ask to write to my hon. Friend on that specific point. I do not have an immediate answer to hand but it does sound an important issue and she is right to raise it.

I, too, place on record the courage that the hon. Member for Burton (Kate Griffiths) has shown.

The first rape review scorecard published last week made for pitiful reading. Just 0.6% of adult rape cases reported to police resulted in a charge. It takes three times as long for rape cases to get through the justice system compared with other crimes. Victims are being told that they are lucky if they get justice within three years. While we welcome the roll-out of section 28, Labour was calling for this back in March. It is not good enough. The Government have apologised and admitted that they have failed, but it has been almost three years since the rape review was commissioned. How much longer will survivors have to wait for justice?

I am glad the hon. Lady raises the issue of the rape scorecards. While it is obviously disappointing that key 2020-21 data show that performance is consistently lower than the baseline in the priority areas, it is important to note that these metrics reflect the period before the rape review was published and the action plan was implemented. But we have a choice, and it is a really important one. We can spend our time using the scorecards to pick out individual statistics for political point-scoring or we can take a joined-up collaborative approach to recognise that the whole reason for bringing forward the scorecards is to shine light on what exactly is happening out there in the system, focus on where the problems are, and work with the CPS, the police, victims and victims’ groups and all the key stakeholders to improve the whole system. That is the important thing to do. The whole point is that by bringing these figures into daylight we will improve the system.