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Rape Charge Rates

Volume 735: debated on Tuesday 27 June 2023

Through the rape review, we are making strong progress in our ambitions to increase the number of referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service, CPS charges and Crown court receipts for adult rape cases back to 2016 levels. Incidentally, 2016 levels are ambitious, given convictions in that year were 30% higher than in 2010. According to the latest quarter of data, we are on track not just to meet but to beat each ambition. Adult rape prosecutions continue to rise, up 44% in the last year, meaning that more people are being put on trial for this devastating crime than in 2010. There is further to go, but it is important and welcome progress.

Is it any wonder that women do not come forward when they have been raped? Not only is there a 1% chance of the perpetrator being charged, but women have to wait nearly three years for a result. Recent figures from Rape Crisis show that victims and survivors of rape and other serious sexual offences wait the longest to have their experiences heard in court, with an average wait of 839 days from report to completion in court. The delays are having a devastating impact on victims and survivors, leading to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing and survivors attempting to end their life as a result. The Government have given up on protecting women and girls, have they not?

I regret that language. As a matter of fact, convictions are at or around the 2010 level. If the hon. Gentleman wants to suggest that rape was decriminalised in 2010, he is welcome to, but it is completely untrue. The number of prosecutions is higher this year than it was in 2010. Of course we must continue to invest in supporting victims—that is why we have 800 independent sexual violence advisers to accompany those victims on what can be a difficult and traumatic journey. How many were there in 2010? There were a handful.

There were 580 rapes recorded by Gwent police for the year ending March 2022. Given that, as we have heard, across England and Wales only 1.3% of rape cases result in a charge, will the Secretary of State tell me how many Gwent cases resulted in a successful prosecution and what is being done to increase prosecution rates?

The statistic that the hon. Lady just cited is completely wrong. Let me make a couple of points. The number of rape convictions is at or around the level it was in 2010. The number of cases passed by the police to the CPS for charge is up 130%. The number of cases charged is up more than 90%. The number of cases received in the Crown court is up more than 120%. Of course there is more to do. Of course work needs to take place, but the system is recovering very well. People are getting justice and those rapists are being convicted, punished and disgraced. Finally, the sentences they receive are around a third longer than the sentence they received in 2010. That is just deserts for wicked rapists.

My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right that support for victims has been essential in increasing the number of cases taken to court. As he said, the numbers have risen significantly in the last 12 months. Could he outline what more he is doing to speed up the time taken to get a case to court, because that time waiting can leave victims not only distressed but potentially walking away from a case that would otherwise come to court?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to make those balanced and fair observations. To try to assist victims, there are a few really important things. Rolling out section 28s ensures that individuals can get their account recorded on tape; that is done whatever then happens in the court process. The independent sexual violence advisers and the independent domestic violence advisers, whom I have talked about, make an enormous difference. Through the victims code, we want to ensure that individuals get the support they need from victims’ services, have the opportunity to go on court familiarisation visits, make victim personal statements and are kept updated by the officer on the case as it proceeds. All those things are critical to ensuring that victims are not spectators of the criminal justice system, but participants in it.

The section 28 achieving best evidence video interviews to which my right hon. and learned Friend refers are there to support vulnerable witnesses and to help to secure not only a charge but a conviction. However, yesterday, during a Justice Committee evidence session, we heard from senior King’s Counsel that there were incidents where such cases were being de-prioritised because of the backlog in the criminal courts, on the basis that in essence the evidence-in-chief had already been taken. Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of that issue? If not, will he look into it further and report back to the Committee?

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for raising that important point. As he knows, listing—prioritisation; which case gets called first—is a matter for the independent judiciary, but he raises important issues. I would be happy to look at them and to discuss them with him, if appropriate, in due course.