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Violence against Women and Girls

Volume 735: debated on Thursday 6 July 2023

3. What steps she is taking to increase prosecution rates for cases relating to violence against women and girls. (905803)

Work is going on across the criminal justice system to drive up prosecution levels. In the Gower, charges of adult rape suspects have increased dramatically in the past year. The Solicitor General and I recently visited CPS South Wales to discuss its future plans.

The Jade’s law campaign is gathering more supporters with each passing day, united in our belief that a man such as Russell Marsh should have no say over the future of his children, whose mother he so viciously murdered. Will the Attorney General engage in a serious and sympathetic discussion with her colleagues in the Ministry of Justice about how we can make Jade’s law a reality?

While I always enjoy my discussions with the hon. Lady, I am afraid that I am not a Minister in the Ministry of Justice. I am happy to pass on her points to those Ministers. The Attorney General’s Office stays completely separate and independent of the Ministry of Justice, and it is important that we maintain that.

I am sure the Attorney General will agree that the investigation and prosecution of rape and serious sexual offences requires particular skills in both investigation and handling in court. Will she therefore welcome the increase in prosecution counsel fees to an equal level with those for the defence so that we get the most competent people doing these cases? Will she also accept that more investment must continue to go in so that the Crown Prosecution Service, as the Director of Public Prosecutions pointed out to our Committee on Tuesday, can continue to recruit sufficient experienced rape prosecutors and have the digital technology to deal with things such as mobile phone evidence in these cases?

My hon. Friend knows well that I do not hold the budget that he is seeking to influence, but he is one of the best campaigners in the House and, as ever, he made his point extremely clearly. I watched with interest his Committee’s proceedings earlier this week and noted what was said.

Almost 500 days ago, in the joint inspectorate’s report on the post-charge handling of rape cases, it recommended that “Immediately”—I stress that word—

“the police and the CPS should work…to ensure that bad character is considered in all rape cases, and progressed wherever it is applicable.”

That means applying to enter into evidence relevant elements of a suspect’s history, including past convictions and a record of violence. But when I recently asked the Ministry of Justice about the issue, it could not even tell me how many bad character applications had been made or allowed in the last year, let alone what progress had been made in meeting the immediate recommendations from last year’s report. Does the Attorney General know what progress has been made? If not, will she make immediate inquiries?

I am always interested in the right hon. Lady’s inquiries into the way that data is produced. She has made some valid points in the past, and I am always keen to engage with her on how best we can provide transparency. I am happy to take her point forward with Ministry of Justice colleagues. I have seen much closer working between the CPS and the police. That is working particularly well in the area of rape and serious sexual offences, which is why we have prioritised that work. I would be happy to look into her question.