Labour pledges to place specialists in 999 call centres to help rape victims

Yvette Cooper says party would also ensure police forces have dedicated units amid shockingly low conviction rates

Victims of rape, domestic and sexual abuse will be given immediate access to trained specialists in police control rooms and a dedicated investigative unit in every force under a future Labour government, the party will announce.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, will say on Tuesday that Labour would ensure each police service in England and Wales has a specialist rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) unit. Control rooms responding to 999 calls will be given a dedicated domestic abuse adviser, she will say.

The plans will be announced in Cooper’s address to the annual Labour conference amid an acute crisis in the criminal justice system over the treatment of rape and assault victims.

Only 1.3% of 67,125 rape offences recorded by police in 2021 led to a prosecution, Home Office figures show. It means rape continues to have the lowest charging rate of all crimes.

It also comes as the justice secretary, Brandon Lewis, confirmed that rape victims would be able to pre-record their evidence on vide, available at all 83 crown courts in England and Wales from Monday.

Cooper told the Guardian: “Today it is estimated that 300 women will be raped. About 190 of those will be reported. But only around three rapists will even see the inside of a court, never mind a prison cell. That is a total disgrace and it has got worse rather than better over the last seven years.

“Specialist support matters. That’s why Labour will require specialist rape investigation units in every force and put local domestic abuse specialists into police forces and 999 control rooms to make sure victims get the expert support they need.”

Rape victims face as much as a three-year delay from reporting the crime to the end of their attackers’ trials.

In 2020, the government launched a five-year package of measures to make sure offenders of sexual violence are brought to justice and victims are properly supported.

It included fully resourcing specialist RASSO units with dedicated, highly trained prosecutors. The Guardian disclosed in October 2021 that two-fifths of police forces in England and Wales did not have specialist rape and serious sexual offence units.

The proportion of rape victims dropping out of cases before the police have charged a suspect has skyrocketed – from 24.7% in 2016 to 42% in the year to March 2022. For serious sexual offences, the proportion has increased from 22.7% to 33.8% over the same period.

The number of rape suspects being charged has also dropped.

The shadow justice secretary, Steve Reed, has said that, if elected, Labour would introduce courtrooms dedicated to dealing with rape trials in every crown court in England and Wales.

Perpetrators of domestic violence would be made to sign a register to monitor their behaviour in the same way as sex offenders under Labour plans.

The domestic abuse register would mean those convicted of serial offences and stalking must give personal information to the police and notify them of any change in circumstances.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph on Monday, Lewis said the introduction of video evidence would enable victims to apply to be cross-examined by lawyers in front of a judge in advance of the trial while their memories were fresh.

Barristers have said that the move comes at the wrong time because it is being implemented without resolving the current industrial action, and has been introduced without the necessary resources in courts.

Lewis also backed efforts by the police under Operation Soteria to end “blame culture” by focusing investigations on the past and present behaviour of alleged rapists, rather than testing the credibility of victims.

He also pledged to “explore every possible avenue” to bring down the crown court backlog, to resolve the barristers’ dispute as soon as possible.


Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Labour would suspend any police officers accused of rape, party says
New policy after Carrick scandal would bring police in line with teachers under future Labour government

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

18, Jan, 2023 @10:30 PM

Article image
Female Labour MPs call on PM to scrap new rape victim guidance
More than 100 MPs write to Boris Johnson saying guidance will lead survivors to avoid seeking therapy

Alexandra Topping and Caelainn Barr

17, Jun, 2022 @6:14 PM

Article image
Police recruits with links to domestic abuse and sex offenders ‘still being appointed’
England and Wales watchdog says vetting processes inadequate in 13 cases over two-month period, despite overhaul

Alexandra Topping

11, May, 2023 @1:27 PM

Article image
Labour pledges to fast-track rape and domestic violence cases through courts
Boris Johnson’s ‘appalling’ attitude to women to blame for lack of progress on gender-based violence, suggests Keir Starmer

Helen Pidd North of England editor

26, Jul, 2022 @2:27 PM

Article image
Scathing report condemns police in England and Wales for ‘victim blaming’ in rape cases
Examination exposes failure to track repeat suspects and botched investigations by struggling forces

Alexandra Topping

15, Dec, 2022 @9:30 AM

Article image
Labour to save police jobs and set up fund for domestic violence victims
Yvette Cooper to announce money for 1,100 police jobs and to reverse 31% cut in women’s refuge financing

Alan Travis, home affairs editor

24, Sep, 2014 @5:00 AM

Article image
Police reviewing how it treats indecent exposure after Wayne Couzens scandal
College of Policing, covering England and Wales, to examine study which shows 25% of offenders go on to carry out further or more serious crimes

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

02, May, 2023 @4:03 PM

Article image
Home Office accused of breaking pledge to tackle violence against women
Labour says department has failed to make crimes such as rape, stalking and upskirting a priority

Rajeev Syal

25, Dec, 2022 @4:00 PM

Article image
Truss vows to outlaw street harassment as Sunak pledges ban on ‘downblousing’
Tory leadership hopefuls set out plans to tackle violence against women and girls, as Labour’s Stella Creasy welcomes Truss U-turn

Jessica Elgot and Aubrey Allegretti

27, Jul, 2022 @9:02 PM

Article image
Met police found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic
Author of landmark report says Met can ‘no longer presume that it has the permission of the people of London to police them’

Vikram Dodd Police and crime correspondent

21, Mar, 2023 @12:01 AM