Plummeting rape convictions are “obviously a shocker” the policing minister has said in the wake of a review that found thousands of victims have been denied justice because of failings by police and prosecutors.
Kit Malthouse apologised for the significant drop in prosecutions over recent years, adding that he understands that victims’ groups are “impatient for change”.
Just 1.6 per cent of rapes recorded by police in England and Wales are currently prosecuted, the lowest proportion for any crime.
In 2019-20, 1,439 suspects were convicted for rape, the lowest level since records began, and down from almost 2,000 the previous year.
“It's obviously a shocker,” Mr Malthouse told Sky News.
"As we have said in the reports, and on the media and elsewhere, it's a source of deep regret and shame that the numbers have dropped so significantly over the last few years.
"While I understand groups are naturally impatient, and we're very sorry for what's happened over the last few years, they are naturally impatient for change."
The government has promised to implement a number of reforms to how rape prosecutions are handled that they say will increase the number of cases going to court.
In a foreword to a report completed at the end of the two-year government review, the home secretary, justice secretary and attorney general called for “stronger case preparation methods, as well as increased communication between all those involved in the prosecution”.
Their plan involves introducing “performance scorecards” on metrics such as the speed of cases and engagement with victims.
Some police forces are also trialling a “new approach to investigations”, where detectives place more emphasis on a suspect’s behaviour rather than “undue focus” on a victim’s credibility. They are also changing the way they demand victims’ mobile phones.
But some victims’ groups have said that the report doesn’t go far enough to address the problem.
Amelia Handy, the policy lead for Rape Crisis called it a “missed opportunity” and added that it’s “hard to identify any big commitments that will radically and swiftly improve the experience of the justice system for victims and survivors”.
The victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, meanwhile raised concerns that the police investigation pilot had only been funded for one year’s rollout at this stage.