The Crown Prosecution Service has a crucial role in tackling serious and organised crimes such as human trafficking, money laundering and child sexual exploitation. It works with other criminal justice agencies to support the Government’s serious and organised crime strategy.
My hon. Friend is right to talk about international co-operation. I am happy to remind him of the important network of up to 27 specialist prosecutors who are based abroad and who work closely with other jurisdictions across international boundaries. Recent examples are the successful conviction of Matthew Falder for child sexual exploitation offences and the conviction of Keith Morris for multiple counts of rape and sexual assault against victims in Kenya. I am happy to say that the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate has reported that the international justice and organised crime division has a conviction rate of over 90% and undertakes high-quality work.
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his answers thus far. One of the most insidious aspects of serious and organised crime is the modern slave trade. What action is he taking to bring those criminals to justice, so that we can smash these rings once and for all?
My hon. Friend is right to draw the House’s attention once again to the grim reality of modern-day slavery. The importance of the CPS in providing early investigative advice in all cases has been underlined, because solely relying on the testimony of victims, who are often vulnerable, can lead to challenges. I am happy to say that in the last year, there was a 119% increase in cases where that vital early advice was provided to the police.
Rightly, we are hearing a lot of concern about the existence of organised county lines, which are affecting our towns and cities across the country. The CPS has developed a particular approach and typology to help the police and other agencies deal with county lines, concerning in particular the balance between the need to safeguard the vulnerable persons—often young—who are being used and the proper investigation and prosecution of criminal offences.
Does the Solicitor General remember replying to me when I said that it was a great concern for those of us who represent towns where there have been dreadful grooming gangs that a senior police officer—not in my patch, but another part of the country—said that the under-resourcing of the CPS meant that it was unable to proceed when it found new evidence about perpetrators?
I assure the hon. Gentleman, who has long been properly concerned about this serious offending, that resource will not be a barrier to the prosecution of offences. We have seen an important sea change in attitudes to the complainants and victims of child sexual exploitation. Gone, I hope, are the days when young victims are disregarded or ignored by the authorities. The message has to go out that we will listen and act to protect victims.
I assure the hon. Lady that it is not a question of choice when it comes to the prosecution of offences. I am happy to say that in the last year, more than 27,500 cases involving possession of a knife or bladed article were commenced in our courts. That is an important testimony to the seriousness with which the prosecuting authorities take the possession and use of knives and offensive weapons.
Can the Solicitor General outline how long it takes for proceeds of serious crime to be administered to communities through the safer communities fund and other grants?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. I do not have the detail of that administration, but I know that in the last seven years, £1.5 billion has been collected in proceeds of crime. That is shared out between the police and other enforcement authorities, and I can write to him with more information about how it is then administered.