Basingstoke's MP Maria Miller raised the unacceptable decline in rape prosecutions in recent years.
Maria said, "To ask the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, if she will make a statement to the House on the incidence of rape cases not taken forward for criminal prosecution."
Answering on behalf of the Government, Vicky Ford MP, Minister of State at Ministry of Justice said "
I thank my right hon. Friend for posing this important question. Last year, in the end-to-end rape review, the Government committed to more than doubling the number of adult rape cases reaching court by the end of this Parliament. We are under no illusions about the scale of the challenge, but we are starting to see early signs of progress. More victims are reporting cases to the police. The police are referring more cases to the Crown Prosecution Service, and the CPS is charging more cases. Rape convictions are increasing: there has been a 67% increase since 2020. Timeliness is improving; the time between a charge being brought and cases being completed continues to fall—it is down five weeks since the peak in June last year.
That is encouraging, but it is just the start. That is why we have identified eight levers that are driving the change. First, we are increasing victim support. We have quadrupled the funding for victim support since Labour was in power—it will rise to £192 million by 2024-25—and we are increasing the number of independent sexual and domestic violence advisers to more than 1,000 by 2024-25.
Secondly, we are rolling out pre-recorded cross-examination for rape victims to all Crown courts nationally. That will help to prevent more victims from being retraumatised by the experience of giving evidence in a live trial. Thirdly, suspect-focused investigations—this is known as Operation Soteria—are being rolled out nationally. That will be completed in the first half of next year, and it will mean that the police focus on the suspect’s behaviour, rather than on the victim’s credibility. Fourthly, we have reformed and clarified disclosure rules, and are working with the police to make sure that victims’ mobile phones are examined only where strictly necessary.
Fifthly, we are reducing the stress of intrusive requests for third-party information—for example, medical or social services records—and are working with the police and the CPS on ensuring that they are gathered only when relevant. Sixthly, we are boosting capacity and capability by increasing the ranks of our police and the number of specialist rape and sexual offences roles in the CPS. Seventhly, our efforts to expand Crown court capacity will continue with a £477 million investment over the next three years to reduce victims’ waiting time for trials. Eighthly, our criminal justice system delivery data dashboard is increasing transparency and giving Government and local leaders the information that they need in order to do better for victims.
We are going even further than the commitments that we made in the rape review, because we have listened to victims and those who work with them. We recently announced a pilot of enhanced specialist sexual violence support in three Crown court centres. This Government are on the side of victims. We want no rape victim to feel as though they are the one on trial. We want every rape victim to feel that they can come forward and seek support. We want to lock up the rapists who commit these abhorrent crimes. We want to protect the public. We will make our streets safer."
Maria followed up, "I thank my hon. Friend for her reply, for coming to the House to set out the additional measures that the Government are putting in place, and for allowing hon. Members to probe the effectiveness of those measures and what is being done to address the unacceptable decline in rape prosecutions in recent years.
The figures show that more than 67,000 rapes have been reported—the highest figure on record, but probably still only the tip of the iceberg. Despite the measures that my hon. Friend has announced, victims still face the trauma of knowing, when they report, that in the past, police, court staff and many others have not been properly trained to support victims—hence the high drop-out rate among victims taking cases forward. The measures that my hon. Friend has introduced will start to help, but rebuilding trust with victims cannot be done overnight. That is why it is so important that Ministers talk about the measures that they are introducing and come to this House to enable us to inquire about their effectiveness.
The Government’s independent adviser on the rape review said recently that
“no one involved thinks where we are is good enough—because it is not even remotely good enough”.
She said that a year on, we are “doing better, but still pushing further.” By coming to the House today, the Minister is enabling hon. Members to hear more fully what she and other Ministers are doing to rebuild trust among victims and, importantly, to deliver the Government’s ambition to double the number of rape cases that reach the courts by the end of this Parliament—an ambitious plan on which we need to hold the Government’s feet to the fire."
Minister responded, "I sincerely thank my right hon. Friend for asking this urgent question. She is absolutely right to identify the need to rebuild trust in the system among victims. The golden thread that runs through all our work is non-defensive transparency. That is why, in our forensic examination of each stage of the criminal justice system, we are working with the police, the CPS, the judiciary, as constitutionally appropriate, and all the agencies, as well as the vital victim support charities and agencies. We are working together so that at each and every stage we can measure the impact of our efforts and try to communicate it to victims.
I understand that people want us to do more and go faster, and that they want to see improvements. However, I ask colleagues across the House to please bear in mind that what we say in this place has a resonance with victims. We must ensure that we are being accurate about progress when it is happening, so that we encourage victims to come forward, and so that they know that change is happening in the system."
Government's announcement on new pilots to boost support for rape victims in court is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-pilots-to-boost-support-for-rape…