'100,000 rape victims' came forward in time it took government to produce ‘small fry and piecemeal’ review

Shadow minister for domestic violence Jess Phillips at BBC Broadcasting House in central London after appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show, where she called for better funding and resources for education to prevent violence against women. Picture date: Sunday March 14, 2021.
Labour frontbencher Jess Phillips has attacked the government over its “weak” Rape Review. (PA)

Labour frontbencher Jess Phillips has attacked the government over its “weak” Rape Review, saying 100,000 victims have come forward in the time it took for it to be written.

The report, published on Friday, was commissioned in March 2019, 27 months ago.

In the review, the government apologised for “failing” rape victims, saying it was “deeply ashamed” of downward trends in bringing sexual offenders to justice.

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.

Watch: Apology does not help rape victims whose cases were dropped, commissioner warns

Read more: Ministers 'deeply ashamed' as review finds thousands of rape victims 'are being failed'

The report set out plans for a “system and culture change”, which will include focusing more on the behaviour of the suspect than the accuser.

Phillips, the shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, said the review doesn’t go far enough.

“In the two years it took the government to write this very weak report,” she tweeted, “100,000 people came forward to say that they have been raped to police.”

Phillips, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, criticised the "very, very small fry and piecemeal" action plan in the report, including its promise that by the end of the current Parliament – May 2024 at the latest – no victim of rape will be left without their phone for more than 24 hours.

There have been criticisms of investigators’ continued use of analysing the mobile phones of people who report a rape to police, often leaving victims unable to contact people close to them when they need them most.

Read more: Will the Rape Review make streets and homes safer? Key questions answered

“This is a government that has just shifted mountains in a pandemic and it’s going to take them two-and-a-half years to say that rape victims shouldn’t have to have their personal lives handed over for any extensive period of time.”

She went on: “To say by the end of the Parliament ‘we’ll get it down to one day’ is not a government who has put a political priority on this. They’re going to build a yacht quicker.”

This is a reference to the £200m new national flagship, a vessel to promote British trade around the world. Construction is expected to begin next year and it will enter service within the next four years.

The latest Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures for 2019/20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales last year, the lowest level since records began.

Measures proposed in the report include a pilot scheme aimed at reducing cross-examination of victims in court by conducting pre-recorded interviews, a nationwide recognition that only evidence about the complainant that is pertinent to the case should be used, and a new approach to investigations which ensures that there is an “early and robust assessment of suspect behaviour and offending patterns”.

Some campaigners welcomed the action plan and the apology.

But Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, was among those to claim the review “presents some missed opportunities”.

She added: “It is a good thing that there has been an apology, but it doesn’t really help people whose cases have been abandoned.”

Watch: Friday's daily politics briefing