What steps she is taking to increase the proportion of cases relating to violence against women and girls that are prosecuted.
Tackling violence against women and girls remains one of the Government’s top priorities, and we are doing all we can to make streets and homes safer. We are prioritising prevention, supporting survivors and strengthening our pursuit of aggressors.
It is a well-known national scandal that only 3% of rape cases have led to charges against the perpetrator. Locally, Avon and Somerset police are making big strides towards change. They have tripled charge rates, are bringing more cases to the Crown Prosecution Service and have changed their investigative focus from the victim to the perpetrator. I am immensely proud of this progress, and I hope that my local area could become part of the ongoing pilot for specialist rape courts. Can the Attorney General confirm when a decision on the further roll-out of specialist rape courts will be made? Will my local Crown court be considered to be part of the next stages?
Evidence is being gathered from our three specialist courts, but I should emphasise that every Crown court tries rape cases and will benefit from the learning. The south-west, as the hon. Lady has outlined, is showing the way by demonstrating new ways of working with the police, providing specialist training to all first responders. They are also, I hear, planning a community event later this month.
Prosecution rates for the appalling crime of rape against women and girls have been too low across the country. What impact does my right hon. and learned Friend believe that Operation Soteria will have on prosecuting cases of rape?
I thank my hon. Friend for her question. She is always a great advocate for vulnerable people. Operation Soteria is focused on delivering cultural transformation in the investigation of rape offences. It looks to ensure that the victim is well supported and the case thoroughly investigated. I was glad to see joint working between the police and CPS when I visited Leeds last Friday. They are working closely together and, crucially, with support services such as independent sexual violence advisers to make sure we really deliver for victims.
A recent revelation in Northern Ireland is that a man was punished with 140 hours of community service after domestically assaulting his wife on two different occasions. What steps will the Attorney General take to ensure that harsher sentences are given to those guilty of inflicting violence on women? We need harsher sentences.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important case. Sentencing is, of course, a matter for the independent judiciary, the Ministry of Justice and the Sentencing Council. I know that he shares the Government’s desire to do all we can to make sure that the victims of violence against women and girls get justice.
Does the Attorney General agree that the Crown Prosecution Service is very dependent on the quality of the investigation from the outset? I therefore welcome this joint working, which is something that had been hoped for over many years and seems to be delivering results. I do not know whether she has anything she can say about its roll-out to the country as a whole.
I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his question. I know that this is something he has personally been working on for many years. It is true to say that joint working is the answer, and in Leeds on Friday I was able to see a police gatekeeper—that is what he is called, but I think a better word would be “interpreter”—who was able to work between the lawyers and the victim and witnesses and ensure that the case was investigated properly right from the beginning and that disclosure was managed in a sensible way.