Starmer says PM has done 'more to protect statues than women' as pair clash at PMQs

23 June 2021, 13:53 | Updated: 23 June 2021, 14:34

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of doing "more to protect statues than women" as he blasted the Prime Minister over plunging prosecution and conviction levels for rape.

Mr Johnson apologised to rape victims for the trauma and delays they have faced in securing justice after he was criticised by the Labour leader during Wednesday’s PMQs.

In the year to the end of March 2020, 58,856 cases of rape were recorded by police forces in England and Wales, leading to just 2,102 prosecutions, compared with 3,043 in the previous 12 months.

READ MORE: 'Culture was wrong' in rape prosecutions, Justice Sec says amid falling convictions

READ MORE: Labour says minister must resign if he fails to reverse falling rape prosecutions

There are an estimated 128,000 victims of rape and attempted rape a year, but only 1.6% of reported cases results in a charge.

The Labour leader said: "This wasn't inevitable, it's the cost of a decade of Conservative cuts and even now the Government isn't showing the urgency and ambition that's needed."

He highlighted an apology from Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, adding: "I note the Prime Minister hasn't done that today. It's time he did."

Mr Johnson said: "Of course to all the victims of rape and sexual violence, all the victims and survivors, of course I say sorry for the trauma they have been through, the frustration that they go through because of the inadequacies of the criminal justice system.

"We are fixing that by investing another £1 billion in clearing the court backlogs, in ensuring that they have people they can listen to and trust who will help them through the trials of the criminal justice experience, but above all we're helping them by getting our courts moving again."

He insisted that "one of the first things I said when I came to this despatch box as Prime Minister was that I thought that rape prosecutions and convictions were too low".

He said: "That's why we had the end to end rape review, and that's why we've been investing in independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers, another £27 million.

"That's why we've been investing more in the Crown Prosecution Service, another £85 million. We're also dealing with the misery experienced by rape victims and survivors who have to hand over their mobile phones, which I think has been one of the evidential problems that has arisen in prosecuting rape cases.

"But what we've also been doing is imposing tougher sentences for serious sexual and violent offences, and it would have been good to have some support in that from (him) and the benches opposite."

Asked by Sir Keir why rape prosecutions and convictions have plummeted under his watch, Mr Johnson replied: "There are considerable evidential problems, particularly in recovering data from mobile phones and that has been an obstacle to the speedy preparation of cases and too often ... cases go from the police to the CPS not in a fit state, and too often those cases are not in a fit state when they come to court.

"There is not a good enough join-up across the criminal justice system."

He attacked the Labour leader for not supporting the The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, adding: "What kind of a signal does it send when they won't even back tougher sentences?"

Sir Keir said in response: "The Prime Minister knows very well why we voted against his bill, precisely because it did more to protect statues than women."