Crown Prosecution Service: Effectiveness in Ensuring Access to Justice

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at on 20 October 2022.

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Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service in ensuring access to justice for the victims of crime.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Attorney-General

The CPS is committed to ensuring that victims of crime are properly able to access justice. Last year, the CPS commissioned independent research to better understand what victims want and need, and to identify areas for improvement. On 27 June, the CPS published its response to the research findings, setting out key areas of action to improve how it engages with victims, and this includes delivering a universal service offer for all victims of crime.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

I thank the Attorney General for that response, but this Government’s inability to prioritise victims is well documented. Today, the final report of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse will be published. For these victims, their abuse is not historical; they live with it every single day, and they need justice. Will he commit to implement all the recommendations in full?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Attorney-General

This Government have repeatedly shown, and rightly so, our support for victims and prioritising the rights of victims. The CPS publishes yearly data—for example, on the victims’ right to review scheme. Nearly 78,000 decisions were made that were eligible for the scheme, under 2,000 decisions were challenged and 270 were found to be wrong—that is 0.35%—but I want to apologise for any decisions that were wrong. Even in that tiny number, it is human lives that are involved. We have focused greatly on the rights of victims, and we will continue to do so.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Conservative, Cheltenham

Can I warmly welcome the reappointment of the Attorney General, and indeed the appointment of the excellent Solicitor General?

It is fantastic news that the number of rape prosecutions is now 30% higher than it was in the last quarter pre covid. Does the Attorney General agree that, if we are going to continue that progress, we need to widen the pipeline of referrals from the police? In that endeavour, we need to ensure that the redaction burden is reduced so that it is proportionate, so that those cases are passed to the CPS and victims get the justice they deserve.

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Attorney-General

I commend my hon. and learned Friend for his time as Solicitor General. I reiterate, as he has done, that since the last time I was a Law Officer a year-plus ago, the number has increased by 30%, as he rightly says, which is extremely impressive. The CPS has set out its priority areas under the victim transformation programme and we are going to work to those.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Attorney General

I congratulate the Attorney General on what is, this time, his permanent appointment to the role—as much as anything can be considered permanent under this Government. I genuinely hope that he will succeed in restoring to the role of Attorney General some dignity, stability and—dare I say it?—sanity. Will he start by giving me a straight answer to this crucial question: will it be possible to impose real-term spending cuts on the Crown Prosecution Service without making charge rates, court backlogs, and victim support even worse than they are now?

Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Attorney-General

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her question. As she knows, this Government have prioritised crime and the victims of crime, and we are, and always have been, the party of law and order. Whatever measures we have to take, including those we had to take when we first came in in 2010 after the appalling disaster of the previous Labour Government, we are focused on dealing with crime and the victims of crime—hence thousands more police officers now being appointed.