The England and Wales justice system is “failing” victims of rape and should be devolved in order to deliver the “radical change” needed.
The shadow minister for social justice, Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, made the comment ahead of a debate on rape and sexual violence at the Senedd today.
Wales needed the powers to establish its own criminal justice system to address “low convictions rates through adopting international best practice on increasing conviction rates and prevention of abuse and rape”.
“The status quo that is the England-and-Wales justice system has failed and is failing rape and sexual assault survivors,” she said.
“We’ve seen an increase in reports of rape yet there’s been a decrease in convictions. How can that be happening?”
According to the charity Rape Crisis, approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men aged 16 – 59 experience rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by penetration in England and Wales alone every year.
However, conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator.
Since 2016, the number of cases prosecuted by the CPS has fallen by 52%. This is despite the fact that there has been a 43% rise in the number of rape allegations to the police.
Leanne Wood said Wales needed the tools to build a justice system that would make Wales a safe country “for all to live in”.
Leanne Wood said that too often, survivors were not believed and were forced to relive “horrific” experiences through insensitive court processes.
“Courts have seen their budgets slashed by Tory cuts,” she said. “This ‘England-and-Wales’ justice system is broken. We urgently need radical change.
“We need powers for a purpose. We need full powers over the whole of the criminal justice system to Wales so that we can address these low convictions rates through adopting international best practice on increasing conviction rates and prevention of abuse and rape.
“We could also use these powers to ensure that sexual assault support and services to be available and well-funded, and for courts to be adapted so that victims feel protected, not intimidated when giving evidence.
“Only full legislative devolution, combined with executive powers, will overcome the failings of the current system. This would align justice policy with long-term spending on health and prevention, place justice at the heart of government and offer opportunities to innovate.
“And more than this, we can build a justice system shaken free from archaic mind-sets and ruts of misogyny and victim-blaming. We can build something that truly works, delivers, prevents and supports.”