Violence against Women and Girls: Reform of the Criminal Justice System

Justice – in the House of Commons on 22nd November 2022.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

What steps his Department is taking to reform the criminal justice system to help tackle violence against women and girls.

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Deputy Prime Minister, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The Government are taking a range of measures to tackle violence against women and girls. The number of convictions in rape cases has increased by two thirds in the last reporting year, but we are restless to do more at every stage of the process from Operation Soteria, linking up police and prosecutors, through to the current national roll-out of pre-recorded evidence in all Crown courts in England and Wales.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

Rape Crisis statistics show that only 3% of cases saw charges brought last year, CPS figures show that only 1.3% of reported rapes are charged or summonsed, and there was a 21% increase in rape reports from the previous year, so what on earth is the Secretary of State going to do to reverse these serial failures and to deal with this epidemic of rape, which on his watch is going unpunished?

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Deputy Prime Minister, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I can reassure the hon. Lady, first, that police referrals and the number of suspects charged have gone up over the last year, and Crown court receipts of those actually arriving in court are going up, but she is right to be restless to do more. We have rolled out national and local data dashboards for crime, but also specifically for rape, to provide greater transparency and to spread better practice in how we secure those vital convictions. As I have already mentioned, we have quadrupled victim funding support since 2010. We have expanded so-called section 28 pre-recorded cross-examination, which is now in place for sexual and modern slavery offences in all Crown courts in England and Wales. I think Operation Soteria is probably the single biggest thing, as we get to a national roll-out next year, because it will get prosecutors and police working more collaboratively together, but also get the focus not on grilling and interrogating the complainant—the victim—but on making sure the balance does not shift and that the focus is predominantly on the suspect.

Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean The Minister of State, Home Department

The Opposition are wrong in their characterisation and narrative of this issue, and the Justice Secretary and his colleagues across the Home Office are to be commended for the leadership that they have shown in driving up rape prosecutions across the whole system, holding independent partners to account. Will the Justice Secretary update the House on how the data are trending in the latest reports? What is he doing to hold the independent court system to account to tackle backlogs in the system, so that rape prosecutions do not have to wait longer than they should to see their day in court?

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Deputy Prime Minister, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I thank my hon. Friend and pay tribute to her for the incredible work she did at the Home Office. She was involved in the meetings on this, and I know how committed she was and how much impact she had. On the results—those are what female victims of crime and the whole country want to see—between April and June 2022, police referrals were up by 95% from the 2019 figure. The number of suspects charged was up by 65% compared with 2019 figures, and Crown court receipts were up 91% from 2019 figures. There is much more to do, but that shows the trajectory and progress, and all the hard work that my hon. Friend and others have done.

Photo of Ellie Reeves Ellie Reeves Shadow Minister (Justice)

Responsibility for ending violence against women and girls is a key role of Government, yet we have a Justice Secretary who could not get the definition of misogyny right, who is accused of bullying, and who is desperate to scrap the Human Rights Act—law that has helped to protect women against male violence. When domestic violence is up and rape charges are at 1.5%, does that send a message that tackling violence against women and girls is not a priority for the Justice Secretary?

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Deputy Prime Minister, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Amid all the bluster and political point scoring, the hon. Lady is losing the opportunity to pay tribute to the important work being done across the justice system, which will give female victims confidence to come forward. That is what we need to see: improvements in police referrals and in the number of suspects charged, improvements in Crown court receipts, and the ability for victims to opt for pre-recorded evidence, so that they go through what must be a harrowing experience without being in the glare of the courtroom. Those are all positive steps. We are restless to do more, but we have made progress, and I do not think it helps to instil or improve confidence in the justice system if inaccurate characterisations of the progress we have made are asserted in this place.