Rape and Domestic Violence (Conviction Rates)

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 2nd July 2015.

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Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood 9:30 am, 2nd July 2015

What steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to improve the conviction rate for rape and domestic violence in the past two years.

Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham

What steps the Crown Prosecution Service has taken to improve the conviction rate for rape and domestic violence in the past two years.

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

Over the past two years, the Crown Prosecution Service has worked with the police to increase the number of referrals for rape and domestic abuse. As a result, the number of people prosecuted for those offences last year was the highest ever. However, more is being done to increase conviction rates, particularly in rape cases, through better training and specialisation among prosecutors and better presentation of cases to juries.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood

What factors explain the variance in conviction rates for domestic violence and rape cases? Will the Attorney General join me on a visit to Kent to meet the excellent Crown Prosecution Service staff?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place. She is absolutely right that there is variance in the statistics, but it is worth noting that there is a difference between what used to happen to bring about those unsuccessful outcomes and what happens now. A large proportion of unsuccessful outcomes in these cases are the result of jury acquittals. The proportion that results from victim issues or discontinued cases is going down. It is important that we do what we can to help juries reach the right conclusion in each case. She will know that I have visited her constituency in the past, as have many hon. Friends. We rather hoped that she would be in a position to ask questions in this House as a result, and I am glad that she is. I will be happy to visit again.

Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham

I declare an interest as a barrister, and indeed as a member of the same chambers as the Attorney General. I welcome the recent statistics showing the highest ever conviction rate nationally for rape and domestic violence cases, but does he share my concern about the figures in Hampshire, where the conviction rate for rape fell in 2014-15? What action will he take to address that?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

I welcome my hon. Friend to her place—I am delighted that she has joined us. This must surely be the safest place to say that there can never be too many lawyers in the House of Commons. [Interruption.] It is the safest place, but still not entirely safe.

It is a matter of concern that the conviction rate in Hampshire is not higher. As I mentioned in my previous answer, we need to look at the factors that are bringing about unsuccessful outcomes. As my hon. Friend well understands, it is not true that acquittal is the wrong outcome in every case, but we need to do everything we can to ensure that cases are presented robustly to juries so that they can reach the right conclusions.

Photo of Colleen Fletcher Colleen Fletcher Labour, Coventry North East

An effective way of increasing the number of referrals from the police and increasing the prosecution and conviction rates for such crimes is to ensure that victims of abuse feel confident that they will be taken seriously when reporting the crime and supported by the whole criminal justice system thereafter, bearing in mind that many of them, if not all, are extremely traumatised. What steps is the CPS taking, in conjunction with the police, to ensure that the requisite support for victims is in place throughout the process?

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Attorney-General

I agree with the hon. Lady. She is entirely right that we need to ensure that victims are supported throughout the process. That starts when a report is made, which of course relies on the police adopting a sympathetic attitude. We then need to see referrals from the police to the CPS. As I mentioned, we are seeing an increasing number of referrals, which is a good sign. We then need to follow through the process, as she says, which is as much about communication as anything else. Giving evidence in court is intimidating for anyone, and even more so for the victims of this type of offending, so we need to ensure that everybody does what they can to ameliorate the process.