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Progress Report on the Implementation of the Rape Review Action Plan

Volume 745: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary (James Cleverly) and I have published on 14 February 2024 a progress report on the end-to-end rape review action plan—published June 2021. This is the fifth progress report on implementation and demonstrates the Government’s ongoing commitment to transparency on our progress in delivering the ambitions of the rape review.

The report details the improvements we made over the last six months, including:

Implemented the national rollout of Operation Soteria across all 43 forces in England and Wales, the highly effective police investigation model pioneered by the Avon and Somerset Police where investigations focus on the behaviour of the alleged perpetrator, not the victim.

Supported police and prosecutors as they implement this new approach, including by establishing a Joint Home Office, College of Policing and National Police Chief's Council Soteria Unit.

Ensured that police officers have the right skills and knowledge to respond effectively to these offences. We have commenced specialist training for 2,000 investigators in rape and serious sexual offences, and are on track to complete these by April 2024 with appropriate specialism in all 43 forces.

Introducing legislation to strengthen support for victims and build victim trust in the system, including ensuring police requests for third party material are necessary and proportionate, and introducing statutory guidance to embed vital roles like Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence Advisors (ISVAs and IDVAs) through our Victims and Prisoners Bill.

Further improving the victim experience at the Crown Court through our specialist sexual violence support project, introducing additional measures to make sure that victims feel informed and comfortable, and are treated sensitively, through best practice in communication, trauma informed training for court staff and additional facilities.

Introducing the Sentencing Bill, which will ensure that convicted rapists spend the entirety of their custodial sentence in jail, with no possibility of early release. This builds on the Conservative Government’s strong track record of tough sentencing for rape. We previously raised the release point to two thirds of the custodial term after the previous Labour Government lowered it to the halfway point in 2003.

We are now exceeding all three of our initial ambitions to return volumes of cases being referred to the police, charged by the CPS and received in court to at least 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament. In practice, this means we have more than doubled the numbers of these metrics from the levels at which they stood when the end-to-end rape review was commissioned in 2019. The volumes of adult rape cases reaching court have continued to increase quarter on quarter, with the latest data—July-September 2023—showing that:

Adult rape cases referred by the police to the CPS—for either early advice or a charging decision—continue to increase. There were 1,470 police referrals in this period, which exceeds our ambition of 766 by 91% and is up by 219% from the quarterly average in 2019, when the rape review was commissioned.

Adult rape cases charged by the CPS stand at 668, exceeding our ambition of 538 by 24% and up by 174% from the quarterly average in 2019.

The number of adult rape Crown Court receipts has increased to 665, exceeding our ambition of 553 by 20% and up by 188% from the quarterly average in 2019.

The number of people prosecuted for an adult rape offence went up by 54% in the latest year of data—12 months to June—rising from 1,410 to 2,165. This is more than double the number recorded in 2019. Adult rape prosecutions are also up by 32% compared to 2010—2,165 prosecutions in year ending June 2023, compared to 1,644 in 2010.

While strong progress has been made, we made clear in our last progress report that we recognise that this is only a start and there is much more to do. This is why we extended our action plan until December 2024.

Beyond our action plan we are committed to addressing the remaining challenges, particularly in regard to victim attrition and court timeliness. We need to ensure that victims remain engaged in the process and feel confident that they will be supported at every stage.

To assist us in driving improvements in the criminal justice system, we have recruited a new Independent Advisor to the rape review, Professor Katrin Hohl. Professor Hohl is an internationally recognised academic specialising in serious sexual offences and domestic abuse. She was the joint academic lead behind Operation Soteria and her work with victims and frontline services will be invaluable in unlocking the most challenging issues that remain.

The action set out in this publication forms part of the Government’s ambition to improve the experience and ensure justice for victims.