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Violence against Women and Girls: Prosecutions

Volume 730: debated on Thursday 30 March 2023

3. What steps she is taking to increase the proportion of cases relating to violence against women and girls that are prosecuted. (904396)

Tackling violence against women and girls remains a key priority for the Government. We are doing everything possible to make our streets and homes safer for them, not least through our joint national action plan, which has seen a significant increase in the volume of charges for adult rape since January 2021.

Government statistics published this morning show that 29% of Crown court cases have been open for more than a year, and Rape Crisis reports that, according to the response to a freedom of information request, there is a record backlog of sexual assault and rape cases, with trials frequently postponed. What impact does the Solicitor General think that that backlog—the situation in the courts—is having on the ability of the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute rape cases?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising an important issue. It is correct to say that the time between charge and completion is being reduced, but she is right: it is still too long. One factor that will encourage victims to stay within the criminal justice process, which is what we all want to see, is the provision of support by independent sexual violence advisers, and guidance is being put on a statutory footing in that regard.

The hon. Lady may be interested to know that I spoke to her local chief Crown prosecutor in person yesterday, in a neighbouring Bristol constituency, and she is doing an excellent job. Last year, the number of suspects charged for adult rape in the CPS south-west area more than doubled.

I am sure that the whole House wants to see much higher prosecution rates for people who commit the appalling crime of raping women and girls. What impact does the Solicitor General think that the brilliant Operation Soteria will have on the current prosecution rates?

My hon. Friend is right to mention Operation Soteria. There is, in fact, a link with the question from the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), because Operation Soteria was founded in her area. It is making a significant difference, and the volume of adult rape suspects charged has more than doubled in the last year.