Johnson admits it will be ‘incredibly tough’ to hit target for rape prosecutions

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(Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
(Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Boris Johnson has said he is “totally fed up” with low levels of prosecution in rape cases but admitted it will be “incredibly tough” to hit the Government’s target to reverse the crisis.

The Prime Minister is coming under increasing pressure to tackle violence against women and girls after the murder of Sarah Everard shocked the nation.

On Monday he was unable to say whether he could look a rape victim in the eyes and tell them there is a high chance she will see justice, but he declined to apologise for the situation.

Sarah Everard (Family Handout/CPS/PA) (PA Media)
Sarah Everard (Family Handout/CPS/PA) (PA Media)

He also denied that cuts during the years of austerity were to blame for plunging prosecution and conviction rates.

The Government announced a target of 2024 to return the number of suspects charged and the amount of cases reaching court to 2016 levels, when the decline in prosecutions began.

But Mr Johnson told Sky News: “I will do everything I can to deliver that. It’s going to be incredibly tough, partly because of the evidential problem….

“We’ll do everything that we can, we’re throwing everything at it.

“Things are actually starting to improve, and you are seeing some signs of acceleration… and I want to see much, much more.”

He denied that cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service were to blame and insisted the problem “is not just a question of money”.

I don't think people do have enough confidence in the criminal justice system

Boris Johnson

But he acknowledged people are “wild with frustration” over the issue and added: “I’m totally fed up with it.”

Asked if he could look a rape victim in the face and say there is a high chance of justice being done, Mr Johnson said: “I want everybody to have that confidence, and at the moment I’ve got to tell you that the answer to that is no, I don’t think people do have enough confidence in the criminal justice system to deal with that accusation.”

The Prime Minister was asked if he would apologise to women over the issue.

“Overall I think that this is something where Government, the whole system, has not done well enough,” he responded.

Labour’s shadow solicitor general, Ellie Reeves said “rape victims are being abandoned by the justice system” under Mr Johnson, as she accused ministers of “failing women and girls on every front”.

“Rape prosecutions are at a record low, victims are being left deserted, and it is clear this is a government that has absolutely no desire to fix the mess it has created and no plan to keep women and girls safe,” she said.

CPS figures for 2019-20 show 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in England and Wales – the lowest level since records began and down from 1,925 the previous year.

This is despite reports of adult rape to police almost doubling since 2015-16.

There are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year, but only 1.6% of reported cases results in a charge.

Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, told the PA news agency: “There is a legitimate concern about the way that rape is dealt with both from the policing perspective but then right the way through the criminal justice system.”

Rape investigations were “challenging and difficult” to undertake and while there was an “enormous amount of work” being carried out to try and improve the situation, Mr Hewitt said: “There is nobody in policing and nobody in the criminal justice system that could stand up today and say that we are satisfied with how that system works at the moment, but what I can say is there’s an absolute determination on the part of policing, and I would say, on the part of the system and the government, to improve that situation and it is a very significant focus of government.”

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