Rape and Serious Sexual Offences

Attorney General – in the House of Commons at on 6 July 2023.

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Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley

What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to increase support for victims of rape and serious sexual offences.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking to increase support for victims of rape and serious sexual offences.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

We know that increased support for victims means that they are more likely to stick with the case until trial. We are working together across the criminal justice system to achieve that. Independent sexual violence advisers are really effective. The new intervention is the revised victims code, which will put a duty on the CPS team to meet the victim.

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley

In constituency surgeries I have heard some of the most horrendous, gut-wrenching child sexual exploitation stories, some of which have involved multiple instances of rape of young children. That has profound, lifelong implications not only for the victims but for their families. As the cases move through the court, the experience can be terrible and traumatic, which is further exacerbated if the trial is delayed. Will the Attorney General assure me that in those cases, the whole family, including the victim, are supported not only during the trial but before and after, with mental health and wellbeing support?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

I have spoken to my hon. Friend about the specific case in his constituency. The Government are making it easier for all victims, including children, to access support. I spoke earlier about ISVAs—we also have children and young persons’ independent sexual violence advisers, who are specially trained to work with children. The Solicitor General and I saw some great work in Manchester, where a large number of child victims are supported.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Conservative, Rother Valley

Some of those who groomed and raped children in Rotherham during the child sexual exploitation scandal and were put away are now starting to be released, some having served less than half their sentence. That is causing immense psychological damage to the victims, who live knowing that their rapists walk free. What can we do to protect those vulnerable people and make sure that child rapists serve their proper sentence behind bars?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

Public protection is our top priority,. We want serious offenders to serve the time in prison that reflects the seriousness of their crimes. Last year, we abolished automatic halfway release for serious sexual and violent offenders who are serving more than four years.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Attorney General very much for her answers. One thing that concerns me and everyone in this House, but in particular families, are the delays for those who have been sexually abused over a number of years and are waiting for a trial to happen. What has been done to support families and individuals through that, because the timescale erodes their willingness and confidence to have justice?

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Attorney-General

The hon. Gentleman is quite right to raise the concern that with delay comes victim attrition. The answer lies in support. The ISVAs that I mentioned earlier are invaluable in ensuring that victims are willing to continue their case to trial.