Minister must reverse drop in rape convictions or quit, says Labor Party | British criminal justice
Robert Buckland must resign as justice secretary if he cannot overturn levels of rape prosecutions and convictions within a year, Labor has demanded.
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy accused Buckland of shedding “crocodile tears” this week when he apologized for the downward trend in bringing sex offenders to justice.
Ministers presented plans for a “system and culture change” after convictions for rape and less serious crimes in England and Wales hit an all-time high.
Buckland expressed his apologies for the dire situation and the cuts the government agreed to in the legal system played a role in the drop in conviction rates after the release of an official review.
But 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 have allowed rapists and other violent criminals to extricate themselves while denying victims justice.
“Rape convictions and prosecutions have more than halved in three years. If he can’t reverse those numbers within a year of apologizing, the justice secretary should do the honorable thing and step down. “
The latest CPS figures for 2019-2020 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or less serious offenses in England and Wales last year – the lowest level since records began.
That figure was down from 1,925 the year before, despite reports of adult rape to police having nearly doubled since 2015-16. Rape and attempted rape victims are estimated to be 128,000 per year, but only 1.6% of reported cases lead to charges.
A Tory spokesperson accused Lammy of “continuing to play politics with such a serious problem.”
“But more worrying still, it shows naivety and a misunderstanding of the criminal justice system to think that five years of decline can be reversed in the blink of an eye,” the spokesperson added.
“We focus on justice for victims, not on the headlines. “
Earlier this week, Buckland said he was “deeply ashamed” of the downward trends and cited a series of measures aimed at increasing the number of Crown Prosecution Service allegations.
They also aim to increase the number of suspects charged and ensure that the number of cases brought to court returns to 2016 levels by the end of this legislature.
The measures include a pilot program to reduce cross-examination of victims in court by conducting pre-recorded interviews and a nationwide recognition that only evidence about the complainant that is relevant to the case should be used.
A new approach to investigations which ensures that there is an “early and robust assessment of suspicious behavior and criminal tendencies” is also planned.