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‘Underwhelming rape apologies won’t cut any ice with the victims’ - Dame Vera Baird

·3-min read
Dame Vera Baird (PA)
Dame Vera Baird (PA)

Government apologies over its appalling rape conviction record will “cut no ice” with those whose cases have been dropped, the Victims’ Commissioner said on Friday.

Dame Vera Baird described the long-awaited Rape Review as “underwhelming” and said it did not go far enough.

Rape convictions have fallen to a record low in recent years, with only 1.6 per cent of reported cases resulting in a charge, according to the latest figures.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland apologised to victims for the low conviction rates in England and Wales and promised to “do a lot better”.

Dame Vera, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, told Sky News: “It’s underwhelming, I’m afraid. But I am pleased that the ministers have apologised.

“I think it will cut no ice with women and men whose cases have been dropped. As ministers now apologise for the criminal justice system that’s truly been disregarding complainants until they prove that in some way they are worthy of support, the police and CPS are now told to focus on the defendant, and it’s absolutely ridiculous that they have to be told that.”

Asked about the conviction rate, she replied: “It represents a wholesale failure of rape complainants.” Dame Vera also criticised investigators analysing the mobile phones of people who report a rape to police.

The review said victims must only be asked to provide their phones when it is “necessary and proportionate to the investigation”.

Around 13 per cent of reported rape cases in 2015-16 ended in a suspect being charged, but this dropped to just three per cent in 2019-20.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse this morning said that he understood victims groups were “impatient for change” and ministers were “very sorry” for what had happened.

“It’s obviously a shocker,” he admitted to Sky News.

The review has been met with a mixed response from campaigners, with some having welcomed the Government’s apology and its pilot scheme to pre-record victims’ evidence to spare them facing court.

However, many said it did not go far enough. Kat Araniello, 44, who was told her rape allegation was a “slam-dunk case” by police before it was later dropped by the CPS, said she felt let down by the system and that the apology simply made her feel “really angry”.

Waiving her right to anonymity, she said: “An apology doesn’t cut it. The CPS need to go back to what they’re there for — that is to build cases and not tear them down.”

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, described the Government’s actions from its rape review as “small fry” and “piecemeal”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that one thing that is “glaringly missing” from the report is any support for the victims.

She added: “The review keeps on going on and on about how victims need to know their rights, victims need to have support.

“But it doesn’t offer anything to actually provide that.”

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