The latest CPS figures from the “Violence Against Women and Girls Report 2018-19” show that the conviction rate for those cases taken to court has increased from 58% in the previous year to 63% in the year ending March 2019. However, the number of cases reaching court, which peaked in 2015, has declined significantly, which is a substantial cause for concern. A number of steps are being taken to address that, including recruiting 20,000 extra police officers and giving the CPS £85 million a year in additional funding.
Many women, including many survivors of rape and sexual violence, have lost confidence in our justice system, due partly to the appallingly low rate of prosecution for rape. Women’s organisations are calling on the Government to launch a fully independent review of how the justice system handles rape cases. Will the Minister take this opportunity to join Labour in committing to deliver on that?
A review by a sub-committee of the Criminal Justice Board is already under way and is due to report in spring next year—in just a few months’ time. That will be accompanied by an action plan, which is clearly needed, as the hon. Lady’s question pointed out. Just a few weeks ago, the Government announced additional funding for the victims of sexual violence; that extra £5 million a year is a 50% increase, bringing annual spending to £13 million a year to support victims of these crimes in exactly the way that the hon. Lady rightly describes.
It was remiss of me not to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his becoming a Minister. I hope he enjoys it; I feel sure that he is uncontrollably excited about the prospects that lie ahead.
The Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre in Guildford, of which I am a patron, is overwhelmed by women and men requesting help. The abuse often happened years ago, and a fear of coming forward means that the perpetrators do not face prosecution. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s Close the Loophole campaign aims to ensure that young men and women are better protected. I do not know what progress has been made in reviewing the Sexual Offences Act 2003; perhaps the Minister can update us.
My right hon. Friend rightly draws attention to the importance of giving victims the confidence to come forward and not only report these offences but take them through the system—there is quite a high drop-out rate between the reporting of an offence and the case being prosecuted in court. She mentions a particular centre in her constituency that is doing excellent work; I hope that some of the additional money announced last week may find its way into that centre’s hands to help with its work. The 2003 Act is among the matters being considered as part of the review that will report back in spring next year.
I, too, congratulate the Minister on his new post. Indeed, my question is linked to his being in that post. We simply do not have enough rape crisis centres and we need to support survivors of rape better. Will the Government consider ratifying the Istanbul convention? That should lead directly to their providing the right number of rape crisis centres. Will the Minister meet me to discuss that?
Via the Domestic Abuse Bill, which was debated last week, a number of steps are being taken in the direction that the hon. Lady points towards. I repeat the point I made a moment ago about the additional funding for the victims of rape: there has been a 50% increase, which I hope will increase provision of the kind that the hon. Lady rightly calls for.