Call for Welsh justice system to deliver ‘radical change’ for ‘failed’ rape victims
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.”
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The key question that Leanne should answer is how exactly so called ‘international best practice’ differs from how these cases are investigated and prosecuted in Wales at the moment. I wonder if she advocates the the procedures in other countries which recently saw an accuser prosecuted and convicted for making up allegations while being denied legal representation which has achieved a bit of publicity recently. The fundamental problem with most rape cases is that it is usually one persons word against another. If we just accept that without testing it we are going to suffer similar to the ridiculous farce… Read more »
Of course Leanne Wood doesn’t advocate the type of justice shown in Cyprus! We have a different way of doing these things in the UK, with jury trails and adversarial cross-examination. The point she makes, a strong one, is that the administration of justice is failing the victims of crime, and the accused too (including the prison system that is failing to rehabilitate offenders). We need a better system in Wales: it will be administered in Wales and it will need to be a priority for the Welsh Government.
So what is this better system? Let’s hear specifically what changes are intended not just the normal ‘let’s make things better’ political waffle. My bet is we will never hear of this again apart from meaningless soundbites so beloved of the legislative leeches we employ with their noses in the taxpayer funded trough (sorry about the mixing of metaphors).