Robert Buckland admits budget cuts were factor in low rape conviction rates

·2-min read

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has acknowledged Government cuts to the legal system were a factor in plunging conviction rates for rape cases.

Whitehall has apologised for “failing” rape victims over years of falling conviction levels, as it promised to undertake a “system and culture change” which will include focusing more on the behaviour of the suspect than the accuser.

Mr Buckland was asked by the BBC if the removal of funding for legal services was linked to the downward trends.

“Like all parts of public service big choices were made in the last decade, because of the position that we all faced economically and that’s, I think, self-evidently the case,” the QC told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

Mr Buckland said the Government was now “seeking to make the necessary investment”, but added it was also “about more than just money, it’s about culture”.

“The first thing I need to say is sorry,” he said.

“It’s not good enough. We’ve got to do a lot better. And the plan that we are outlining in that review is all about taking practical steps to change the situation and to address the causes for this failure.”

But policing minister Kit Malthouse said the reasons behind the fall in rape prosecutions were “more complex” than cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Asked if he accepted that budget cuts to the CPS were part of the problem, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “No, I don’t.

“In truth, the biggest drop we saw in cases coming to court arose from 2016, and obviously that was part way through a period of financial hardship in the country, when we were trying to cut our cloth accordingly.

“So the reasons for that fall are more complex I think necessarily than just budget cuts.

“But look, has the CPS been under strain generally? Yes. Has the whole public service been under strain? Of course it is.”

The review includes a raft of measures intended to see the volume of allegations referred by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the number of suspects charged, and the amount of cases reaching court return to 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament.

Measures 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”.