It will be ‘incredibly tough’ to increase the number of prosecutions in rape cases, Boris Johnson has admitted.
The Government has pledged to return the number of cases reaching court back to 2016 levels by 2024 but the PM has cautioned that much more needs to be done before this target is met.
Currently, only 1.6% of tens of thousands of rape or attempted rape victims ever see their attacker charged.
Convictions slumped to their lowest level since records began in 2019-20, when 1,439 rape suspects were found guilty, down from 1,925 the previous year. There are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year.
Convictions rates have been falling at the same time as reports of adult rape to police have almost doubled since 2015-16.
Mr Johnson said he is ‘totally fed up’ with the low number of prosecutions and acknowledged many are ‘wild with frustration.’
He’s come under renewed pressure to deal with the crisis after the murder of Sarah Everard, who was raped and killed by serving police officer Wayne Couzens.
Mr Johnson was unable to say whether he could look a rape victim in the eyes and tell them there is a high chance she will see justice, but he declined to apologise for the situation.
He also denied that cuts during the years of austerity were to blame for plunging prosecution and conviction rates.
Speaking about his target to reverse the downward trend in prosecutions, Mr Johnson told Sky News: ‘I will do everything I can to deliver that. It’s going to be incredibly tough, partly because of the evidential problem….
‘We’ll do everything that we can, we’re throwing everything at it. Things are actually starting to improve, and you are seeing some signs of acceleration… and I want to see much, much more.’
Labour’s shadow solicitor general, Ellie Reeves, said ‘rape victims are being abandoned by the justice system’ under Mr Johnson, as she accused ministers of ‘failing women and girls on every front’.
‘Rape prosecutions are at a record low, victims are being left deserted, and it is clear this is a government that has absolutely no desire to fix the mess it has created and no plan to keep women and girls safe,’ she said.
Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: ‘There is a legitimate concern about the way that rape is dealt with both from the policing perspective but then right the way through the criminal justice system.’
Rape investigations were ‘challenging and difficult’ to undertake but there is an ‘enormous amount of work’ being carried out to try and improve the situation, Mr Hewitt said.
He added: ‘There is nobody in policing and nobody in the criminal justice system that could stand up today and say that we are satisfied with how that system works at the moment, but what I can say is there’s an absolute determination on the part of policing, and I would say, on the part of the system and the government, to improve that situation and it is a very significant focus of government.’