Dominic Raab has faced calls to apologise to rape victims “denied justice” because of his “failures” as Justice Secretary.
The Deputy Prime Minister sidestepped repeated requests from Labour’s Angela Rayner to say sorry for low charge rates and backlogs, and he instead insisted the Government is “doing everything that we can”.
But Labour deputy leader Ms Rayner insisted: “Not a word of apology, no sense of responsibility and not even a shred of shame.”
The pair clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions as they deputised for Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer due to their attendance at the funeral of former Commons speaker Baroness Betty Boothroyd.
Ms Rayner told the Commons: “Women feel unsafe on Britain’s streets, always looking over our shoulder as we hurry to our front door.
“Can he tell me under his watch as justice secretary, what is the charge rate for rape?”
Mr Raab responded by saying that tackling rape is “one of our top priorities”, telling MPs: “She asks what we are doing about it, since 2019 police referrals of cases have doubled, CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) charges have doubled, she asks on my watch what has happened, the volume of convictions in rape cases has increased by two-thirds.
“If she really wants to protect vulnerable women whether it is from rapists or other serious crimes they will back our parole reforms, which will mean ministers are able to prevent them being released into the public and cause more threats.”
But Ms Rayner countered: “He hasn’t answered my question because he is too ashamed of the answer: 1.6% of rapists faced being charged for their crime – 1.6%. Let that sink in.”
She added: “More than half a million cases of rape have been recorded by the police, but the charge rate for those attacks has collapsed. He has served under five Tory prime ministers and had three years as justice minister and on his watch, rapists are left to roam the streets.
“So will he apologise to those victims who will never get justice because of his failures?”
Mr Raab replied: “The conviction rate measured by the CPS – the leader of the Labour Party used to be in charge of the CPS, he might want to point this out – has gone up, it’s now at 69%.
“We are doing much more to support the victims of rape as they come forward.
“They (Labour) are talking a good game, in fact we have quadrupled funding for victims since 2010. If she looks at the latest data, the time it has taken from charge to completion of a rape case has come down by 10 weeks or 70% in the last three months alone.
“She should get her facts straight, particularly when talking about such a sensitive issue.”
Ms Rayner countered: “He won’t apologise for the Government’s failures on charge rates and 69% of 1.6%, is that really something to boast about?”
She added: “On his watch, rape survivors are waiting on average more than three years for their cases to come to court … 10 weeks is not anything to boast about.
“Those three years from the day of the assault to the final day of court, is it any wonder that from April to September last year 175 trials for rape and other serious sexual offences have had to be dropped because the victim could no longer cope with the delay.
“So let me ask him, when will he apologise to all those women denied justice because of his failure to sort the court backlog?”
Mr Raab replied: “She ignores the impact on the court backlog of the pandemic or the CBA (Criminal Bar Association) strike.”
He added: “We’ve quadrupled funding for victims since 2010 … we launched the 24/7 support line so that when those victims of that appalling crime come forward they get the support they need, we’ve increased the number of independent sexual violence advisers to over 1,000 and we’re making sure that women who suffer this appalling crime can give pre-recorded evidence in court.
“We’re doing everything that we can. The rates are coming down and we’ll keep taking action.”
Labour later pointed to CPS data released in January which showed convictions rates for rape reducing from 69.1% in the first quarter of 2022/23 to 61.9% in the second quarter.
Shadow justice secretary Steve Reed said: “Dominic Raab must immediately come back to the House and apologise.”