Gill Furniss MP Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
The Rt. Hon. Robert Buckland MP
Secretary of State for Justice
102 Petty France
Sent via email
Friday, 25 June 2021
Our ref: 20210625JC
Re. Publication of the Rape Review
I am pleased that after years of waiting, the Rape Review has now been published. This has been long overdue. For years, MPs and organisations inside and outside Parliament have seen the deteriorating situation and called on the Government to implement a comprehensive strategy to improve outcomes for victims.
In South Yorkshire, 43% of rape cases over a 6 month period in 2020 were dropped because the victim had lost faith in the system and did not want to proceed with further action. This shocking statistic lays bare the desperate need for the system to change. I therefore welcome the commitments contained within the report which are geared towards a cultural change in our institutions. Improving the process so that victims feel better supported is vital if we are to rebuild trust in our criminal justice system. As you have said yourself, victims of rape are being failed.
However, the review has overlooked the significant funding shortfalls which have contributed to the decline in the number of perpetrators being brought to justice. Since 2010, Ministry of Justice funding has fallen by a staggering 25% (source: IFS). Furthermore, over half of Magistrates Courts across the UK have shut over this same period.
In addition, shortfalls in police funding have hampered their ability to designate the necessary resources towards investigating rape and sexual assault cases. As I raised in the House on the 17th May, the Home Office Police Core Settlement has remained at the same level since 2010, meaning a cut in real terms. At every step of the process, the resources needed to ensure that victims get the justice they deserve are being cut to the bone. This has led to the dire situation which the Rape Review has laid bare.
The cultural problems that the Rape Review highlights are long-standing, but prosecutions have fallen sharply since 2016. It would therefore be naïve of the Government to deny that the austerity measures which have deeply affected our criminal justice system have had an impact on the situation we now find ourselves in. If we are to end this national scandal, measures to change the culture within our criminal justice system must be matched by the funding to support them. That is the only way to reach the target to get prosecutions back to 2016 levels by the end of this Parliament. I am disappointed that you have been quick to deny any personal responsibility over this target, describing it as ‘constitutionally illiterate’ despite apologising to rape victims who have been failed by this government.
I hope that publication of the Rape Review will serve as a turning point and I look forward to monitoring progress on the commitments contained within it. I urge you to acknowledge the role that funding cuts over the last decade have had and ensure that the funding matches the rhetoric so that we can deliver justice for all victims of rape and sexual assault.
Gill Furniss MP
Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough