Sort rape convictions or go, Labour tells Bucklandon June 20, 2021 at 4:05 am

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Labour says the justice secretary must resign if he cannot reverse low rape convictions in a year.

David Lammy and Robert Buckland

image copyrightPA Media

The justice secretary must resign if he cannot reverse low conviction rates for rape within a year, Labour has said.

Shadow justice secretary David Lammy said Robert Buckland shed “crocodile tears” when he apologised for convictions falling to a record low.

A government report this week said only 3% of reported rapes in England and Wales resulted in a prosecution in 2019-20 – down from 13% five years ago.

A Ministry of Justice source said Mr Lammy was playing politics.

Earlier this week, Mr Buckland said he was “deeply ashamed” that convictions for rape and other sexual offences in England and Wales had dropped to the lowest level since records began.

He admitted budget cuts were partly to blame and set out plans for a “system and culture change”.

Mr Lammy said: “The justice secretary’s crocodile tears will mean nothing if the government fails to reverse its disastrous failure of rape victims.

“The Conservatives’ decade of cuts to the justice system has let rapists and other violent criminals off the hook while denying victims justice…

“If he cannot reverse these figures within a year of his apology, the justice secretary should do the honourable thing and resign.”

The latest figures from the Crown Prosecution Service show there are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year. But only 1.6% of reported cases result in a charge.

The Ministry of Justice source said Mr Lammy’s comments showed “naivety and a poor understanding of the criminal justice system to think that five years of decline can be reversed at the drop of a hat”.

“We’re focused on delivering justice for victims, not headlines for newspapers,” he added.

The government has said it is considering allowing victims to pre-record their evidence to spare them the trauma of a courtroom trial.

Other plans set out in its report include:

  • Videoing victim’s cross-examination earlier in the process and away from the courtroom. A pilot will be trialled in several courts, with a wider rollout considered. This measure is already used for children and vulnerable victims and witnesses
  • Introducing better data extraction technology to reduce the time that victims are without their phones – with an aim to have them returned by police within 24 hours. Currently this process can take months causing distress for victims left phoneless at a time when they most need support from friends and family
  • Putting greater emphasis on understanding a suspect’s behaviour rather than focusing on a victim’s credibility

The report – commissioned in March 2019 – also said the volume of cases going to court should return to “at least 2016 levels” and that regular “scorecards” would be published to monitor progress.

There are many possible factors behind the fall in prosecutions.

The review argued it was due to “a strained relationship” between different parts of the system, lack of support for the victims and “an increase in invasive requests for their personal data”.

In rape investigations, there has been an increase in the amount of evidence to consider, often from phones and social media, making them more difficult for police, prosecutors and, potentially, victims.

Graphic showing rape case outcomes
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