LONDON: The British government on Friday apologised for failing rape victims, acknowledging that swingeing cuts to the legal system in recent years contributed to plunging conviction rates.
“The first thing I need to say is sorry,” said Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, as a review into the handling of rape allegations was published, calling for root-and-branch reform. “It’s not good enough. We’ve got to do a lot better,” he told the BBC in an interview.
The long-awaited government review urges prosecuting authorities to focus more on the behaviour of the suspect rather than the accuser.
According to the Crown Prosecution Service, which brings criminal cases in England and Wales, 1,439 suspects were convicted of rape or lesser offences in 2020 — the lowest levels since records began.
In 2019, there were 1,925 convictions, despite reports of adult rape to police having almost doubled since 2015-16, when there were 4,643 prosecutions.
Between 2015-16 and 2019-20, the number of reported rape cases that ended in a suspect being charged fell from 13 percent to three percent.
Some 128,000 people a year are victims of rape and attempted rape, but only 1.6 percent of reported cases results in a charge, the figures stated.
Buckland, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Attorney General Michael Ellis wrote in the report: “These are trends of which we are deeply ashamed.