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LABOUR condemned Boris Johnson today for describing questions about rape convictions as “jabber” after the PM was challenged on cuts to the criminal justice system during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Johnson made the comment after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer warned that rape victims are being failed as 98.4 per cent of cases do not result in a charge — a record-low conviction rate.
Ministers set out plans last week for a “system and culture change” following a major review of the approach to such offences, with Justice Secretary Robert Buckland among those to apologise.
Women’s groups said that the changes to the system recommended by the rape review, launched in 2019 after pressure from campaigners, did not go far enough to tackle the “systematic failures at the heart of this urgent justice crisis.”
Sir Keir, former head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), stressed that budget cuts to the service since 2010 had worsened the situation.
He asked what the widely criticised Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which “protects statues not women,” would do to address the issue. The proposed legislation would increase the maximum penalty for criminal damage to a memorial from three months to 10 years.
“On the [PM]’s watch, rape prosecution convictions are at a record low, court backlogs are at a record high, victims are waiting longer for justice and criminals are getting away with it,” he 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.”
Mr Johnson claimed he was toughening sentences and boosting the number of people in the CPS. In his final reply to the Labour leader, he said: “We’re getting on with the job — they jabber, we jab. They dither, we deliver. They vacillate, we vaccinate.”
In response, shadow Home Office minister Jess Phillips said: “For the [PM] to describe questions about rape convictions as ‘jabber’ is disgraceful.
“But this is the man who once said investigating child sexual abuse was ‘spaffing money up the wall’ — he simply doesn’t care about tackling sexual violence.
“He should apologise for his comments and his government’s appalling record.”
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