Sex offences help offered

MP Jo Platt
MP Jo Platt

Extra efforts are being made to ensure the more effective prosecution of rape and sexual assault cases, according to the Attorney General.

Jeremy Wright’s pledge came after he was questioned by Leigh MP Jo Platt over steps which the senior law officer can take in partnership with Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The assurance came during a House of Commons debate on rape and sexual offences prosecutions.

Ms Platt said: “I welcome the Attorney General’s comments, but does he accept that low conviction rates for rape and sexual offences can deter victims from reporting those incidents to the police — an issue that was recently brought to my attention by a constituent?

“If so, will he work with the Director of Public Prosecutions to improve confidence in our ability to prosecute such cases and ensure that victims are able to come forward?”

Mr Wright said: “There are a number of factors that might deter those who should come forward to report crimes of this nature from doing so, and of course deter them from pursuing those cases throughout trial.

“We must not only do what we can to ensure that conviction rates are where they should be, but make sure that complainants are properly supported throughout the case. We do that through independent sexual violence advisers and special measures.

“She will know that, in relation to vulnerable witnesses in particular, we are beginning to roll out pre-recorded cross-examination so that people can give their evidence outside a courtroom and get it done before the trial begins.”

The Attorney General also said, with then-Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss, he had asked the Crown Prosecution Service to review a sample of files to see whether the sexual history of a complainant was being allowed into evidence. It was found this was only permitted by a judge in eight per cent of the cases analysed.