Tories face Commons showdown over rape victims having to relive ordeal in court

Labour will force a Commons vote on measures that spare rape victims the trauma of a courtroom trial amid growing anger over record-low prosecutions for the crime.

Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy will force a vote on allowing victims to record evidence, rather than having to relive their attack in open court.

The move comes amid fury over a government report, which revealed just 3% of reported rapes led to a prosecution in 2019-20. It marked an historic low and a staggering 10% drop since 2015-16.

Labour said the vote would mark the “first test” of Justice Secretary Robert Buckland’s pledge to tackle the system’s woeful record of protecting women and girls.

Mr Buckland took the unusual step of offering an apology to victims after the shock statistic was published. He said ministers were “deeply ashamed” of the falling rape prosecution rate and promised to “do a lot better”.

But Mr Lammy is turning up the heat on the government and says that the Justice Secretary should resign if the MoJ fails to reverse the downward trend in prosecutions.

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Mr Lammy told the Mirror “This will be the first test of Robert Buckland’s crocodile tears.

“If the Justice Secretary is as ashamed of his record as he claims, he will vote with Labour to make it easier for rape victims across the country to give evidence now, to increase sentences for rapists, stalkers and those who break the anonymity of rape victims, as well as to create a new offence for street sexual harassment.”

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Tory MPs will also be force to vote on a number of other measures to protect women and girls from violence, some of which the government has already indicated it will support.

They include making misogyny a hate crime, street harassment, a new jail term for those who identify a sex offence victim and longer sentences for rape, stalking and domestic murder.

The expansion of the Ministry of Justice’s Section 28 measures for court would mean victims do not have to relive their experiences in open court.

As it stands, victims can give evidence from behind a screen or via a video-link but many spend months in turmoil over having to relive their experiences as part of a public hearings.

Experts back a change in the law and have said it could be pivotal in boosting conviction rates.

Mr Buckland, who is weighing up what measures the government will put into law in the Police and Crime Sentencing Bill making its way through parliament, hit back at Labour.

On Labour’s resignation challenge, he said: “To in any way suggest that an increase in prosecutions and the bringing of cases should be linked to the fate or otherwise of a politician, is constitutionally illiterate, it is dangerous, it is the sort of approach that could lead to allegations of improper pressure to be put upon independent prosecutors.”

The government is prepared to look at “more fundamental changes to the criminal justice system” if proposals from the rape review “do not yield sufficient change”, Mr Buckland added.

He said: “The review represents just the beginning of this work, we must continue to challenge the entire system to deliver urgent and sustained change.

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“We owe that to every victim of these terrible crimes, every part of the system can and must do better. Now is the time for it to deliver.”


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