Sexual Offences: Victims

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 1st July 2022.

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Photo of Matt Vickers Matt Vickers Conservative, Stockton South

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps his Department is taking to support victims of rape and sexual abuse.

Photo of Victoria Atkins Victoria Atkins The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

This government is determined to make streets safer for women and girls. We have published a draft Victims Bill to ensure victims get the support they are entitled to and have increased the funding for victim and witness support services to £192 million by 2024/25 - more than quadruple the level in 2009/10 and an uplift of 92% on core budgets in 2020/21. We are extending the time limit for victims of domestic abuse to seek justice and have taken action to protect women from harassment when they are breastfeeding in a public place.

Last year, we published the End to End Rape Review report and action plan with our plan to transform the way the criminal justice system responds to rape. Since publication, we have made significant progress in delivering actions to change the system for the better. We are beginning to see positive increases in the number of referrals of adult rape cases being made from the police to the CPS, and the number of charges as a result. Rape cases referred by the police to the CPS have increased in the last quarter of 2021 by 76% from the quarterly average in 2019, when the Rape Review was commissioned. Rape cases charged by the CPS in the last quarter of 2021 have also increased by 38% from the quarterly average in 2019. Rape convictions in 2021 were up by 67% on 2020. We will continue to use our cross-system governance structures to drive this change and take further actions where necessary.

We have identified 8 key levers to delivery changes across all aspects of the Criminal Justice System:

o Establishing suspect-focused rape investigations – known as Operation Soteria – across five police forces, and will expand to 14 more by September, with a national rollout completed by June 2023. o Boosting the number of police officers, and specialist rape and sexual offences roles within the CPS, so that they have the capacity and capability to investigate rape cases more effectively. The CPS have committed to increasing their rape and serious sexual offences workforce by 194 – from 433 – by the end of March 2023. o Working with police forces to make sure that victims’ mobile phones are only examined where necessary, and only retained for short periods of time where they are. o Improving the timeliness and proportionality of requests for material from third parties during investigations. The government has launched a consultation to gather more insight, evidence and data on current issues, and to work to ensure police and CPS requests for third party material are made appropriately, and the Attorney General has also published revised guidelines to better direct investigators and prosecutors only to access information relevant to a case. o Expanding pre-recorded cross-examination (Section 28) for victims of sexual violence and modern slavery in Crown Courts nationwide– with this vital measure now available in almost half of all Crown Courts (37 locations). The Government is committed to rolling it out nationwide by September o Expanding Crown Court capacity continues, with a £477 million investment over the next three years to reduce the Crown Court backlog and how long victims have to wait for trials. o Expanding support for victims. This includes creating a national 24/7 support line for victims of rape and sexual abuse, so that every victim can access support whenever and wherever they need it. And we are using additional ringfenced funding to increase the number of Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisors (ISVAs and IDVAs) by 300, to over 1000 by 2024/25 - a 43 percent increase over the next three years. o Criminal Justice System delivery data dashboard: We are publishing the CJS delivery data dashboard quarterly for adult rape which brings together local data from across the system in one place for the first time, allowing us to increase transparency, increase understanding of the justice system and support collaboration, especially at a local level.

Alongside our progress update last week, we announced a pilot of enhanced specialist sexual violence support in the Crown Court. This is aimed squarely at doing better by rape victims, giving them the support they need to stay engaged in the process and get the justice they deserve. We are committed to going further and pushing harder on our actions so that we can drive bigger impacts, deliver wider system change and crucially, deliver justice for victims of rape and sexual abuse.

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