Boris Johnson admits justice system and police serve rape victims badly

PM says he will ‘stop at nothing to make sure we get more rapists behind bars’ after Sarah Everard case

Rape victims in Britain are badly served, Boris Johnson has admitted, as he promised to “stop at nothing to make sure we get more rapists behind bars” and to overhaul the policing of sexual violence after Sarah Everard’s murder.

The prime minister said the rape and murder of Everard by a serving police officer had “triggered feelings of huge numbers of people” about the handling of sexual crimes, domestic violence and rape.

Only 2% of reported rapes in England and Wales result in prosecution, and rape convictions are at an all-time low, while many instances of sexual harassment are not fully investigated – failings the Guardian has highlighted repeatedly. Courts are also experiencing long backlogs in hearing cases after struggling with cuts to the criminal justice system and 18 months of Covid-related delays.

Speaking before the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Johnson said policing and prosecution of such crimes was “going wrong”. Rape victims “need to get a better service” from the police, he said, as he highlighted possible changes in the way evidence is handled and mobile phone data is collected.

Johnson told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We will stop at nothing to make sure that we get more rapists behind bars and we have more successful prosecutions for rape and for sexual violence. Because that, I think, is going wrong.”

The government and the Metropolitan police have been under huge pressure over their response to Everard’s murder by Wayne Couzens but have resisted calls for the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, to resign.

The issue is already overshadowing the Tory conference, which Johnson had hoped would focus on his agenda for “levelling up” the country to reduce inequalities between different regions.

Asked how women could trust the police, when they were being told to flag down a bus if they suspect an officer is trying to harm them, Johnson insisted it was “very very important that people should have confidence in the police”.

However, he acknowledged serious problems in the policing of sexual violence. The prime minister blamed a failure of police and prosecutors to work together well enough to ensure there was a chance of a “decent case being presented”.

He said people and women in particular “know instinctively that something is going wrong”. “We do need to look systemically at not just the Wayne Couzens case but the whole handling of rape, domestic violence, sexual violence and female complaints about harassment all together,” he said.

Johnson rejected calls for a public inquiry into the police’s failings on sexual violence and in the Everard case, saying investigations by the Met and the Independent Office for Police Conduct should be allowed to happen first.

On Friday, the prime minister described the police failure to take sexual violence against women seriously as “infuriating”, pointing to long delays in the criminal justice system that can result in people waiting years for their case to be heard.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, also told the Telegraph that the police needed to “raise the bar” in responding to all violent crimes against women, including those that are sometimes seen as low-level.


Rowena Mason Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tory women’s group calls for investigation into police misogyny
Conservative Young Women condemns ‘deplorable’ police response to violence against women

Jessica Elgot

03, Oct, 2021 @2:36 PM

Article image
Nearly 70% of rape victims drop out of investigations in England and Wales
Exclusive: MoJ statistics unearthed by Labour as party presses Rishi Sunak to improve conviction rates

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

30, May, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Met police deny systemic failure in rape case disclosures
After collapse of two trials because of late disclosure, Scotland Yard says review of ongoing cases could run into hundreds

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

20, Dec, 2017 @1:22 PM

Article image
The Guardian view on rape and the police: justice first | Editorial
Editorial: Two young men have had the terrible ordeal of being wrongfully charged for one of the worst of crimes. But this is a failing of process. It must not be an excuse to fan the flame of misogyny


20, Dec, 2017 @7:28 PM

Article image
What is Boris Johnson offering in his crime reduction plan?
Making stop and search easier is among proposals that police and critics doubt will do much to cut crime

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

27, Jul, 2021 @4:46 PM

Article image
Boris Johnson to seek control of CPS and court system in London
A New York-style system would allow mayor to hold to account those responsible for the most important pillars of justice

Vikram Dodd

30, Nov, 2014 @10:00 PM

Article image
Police appeal against ruling in favour of Worboys rape survivors
Supreme court to hear Met case against ruling that found investigative failures breached women’s human rights

Sandra Laville

10, Mar, 2017 @1:37 PM

Article image
Metropolitan police's handling of rape allegations to be reviewed

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe announces review amid concerns about failure to bring sexual violence offenders to justice

Vikram Dodd

09, Jun, 2014 @7:27 PM

Article image
Former Met police officer admits failing to investigate rape cases
Ryan Coleman-Farrow faked police reports, failed to pass on evidence and falsely claimed to have interviewed suspects

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent

12, Sep, 2012 @1:51 PM

Article image
Surge in stop and search in England as police battle knife crime
‘Deeply worrying’ rise over last two years in use of tactic by country’s biggest forces

Sarah Marsh and Patrick Greenfield

07, Jul, 2019 @5:00 PM