Rape review: Government must be more “radical and ambitious” if we are to get rape response right.

The Government has apologised to rape victims for low conviction rates today as it published its long-awaited end-to-end rape review. It has outlined plans to overhaul the criminal justice system’s response to rape and sexual violence. It has promised to return prosecution rates to 2016 levels which I believe should be “our absolute minimum level of ambition”.

Here is the full statement:

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, said: “Many thousands of rape and sexual violence victims have been badly let down by the criminal justice system as we have seen a shocking decline in the number of prosecution and convictions for these crimes over the last five years. Fewer than one in 60 rape charges recorded by police last year led to a suspect being charged. 

“The rape review was the Government’s chance to overhaul the treatment of rape and sexual violence crimes to rebuild victims’ confidence in the criminal justice system and bring more perpetrators to justice. I welcome the Government’s frank acknowledgement that the current situation is totally unacceptable. But I must call on the Government to be much more radical and ambitious if they are truly to transform the  response for the better.

“I am glad to see the Government’s commitment to reverse the trend that we have seen over the last few years and would like to see a firm plan for how this will happen in reality so victims and survivors are no longer let down by the criminal justice system. Returning prosecutions and convictions to 2016 levels should be our absolute minimum level of ambition.

“The review outlines some positive measures by the Government including programmes like Project Soteria. This will shift the focus of investigations onto suspects (rather than victims) and brings in external scrutiny into rape investigations. This could be transformative, but it will need to be properly funded so it can be rolled out across England and Wales.

“The review tackles a number of issues that have been a major block for victims including the roll-out of  pre-recording of video evidence of intimidated witnesses (Section 28) but I am concerned that this has already been subject to delays and more could be on the way. I would urge the Government to implement reforms as quickly as possible.

“Support through the specialist sexual violence sector will also be paramount, and I have welcomed increased funding for rape support centres and independent sexual violence advocates over the past year. However, this must be placed on a sustainable, long-term footing, to provide the support victims so desperately need. The upcoming Victims’ Bill provides the Government with an important opportunity to secure this for years to come.

“I am encouraged that the Lord Chancellor has committed to the involvement of the Victims’ Commissioner and Domestic Abuse Commissioner in any external scrutiny panel and look forward to playing my part in holding agencies to account.

“The rape review has been long awaited by survivors and those working to support them. It is now time for the Government and criminal justice system to show a real sense of drive and purpose to ensure that victims and survivors of rape and sexual violence get the justice they deserve.”