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Boris Johnson has been branded "disgraceful" after he dismissed questions about the justice system's "appalling" record on rape prosecutions as "jabber".
The PM was forced by Labour leader Keir Starmer into apologising to the victims of rape after new figures last week revealed a staggering 98.4% of reported rapes do not end in a prosecution.
But Mr Johnson sparked anger during Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons after trying to bat away questions, telling MPs: “They jabber, we jab. They dither, we deliver. They vacillate, we vaccinate.”
Speaking afterwards, Shadow Domestic Violence Minister Jess Phillips: “For the Prime Minister 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.”
Mr Starmer had attacked the PM over the Crown Prosecution Service's record on rape, underlining that prosecutions had halved over the course of the last five years, asking the PM: “Why under this Government has the number of rape convictions and prosecutions fallen to a record low?”
He added: “We all agree that the figures are appalling, the question is why? The Government’s own review makes clear that rape convictions and prosecutions have halved since 2016.”
The Labour leader added: “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.”
The PM insisted he was fighting for tougher sentences for rapists, and when pressed to say sorry, told MPs: "And of course to all the victims of rape and sexual violence, all the victims, and survivors, of course I say sorry to the trauma they have been through, the frustration that they go through because of the inadequacies of the criminal justice system."
He said the government was investing £1bn on clearing a massive court backlog which had built up due to the Covid pandemic.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has already issued an apology to victims after the shock statistic was published. He said ministers were "deeply ashamed" of the falling rape prosecution rate and promised to "do a lot better".
Mr Johnson replied: “There are considerable evidential problems, particularly in recovering data from mobile phones and that has been an obstacle to the speedy preparation of cases and too often … cases go from the police to the CPS not in a fit state, and too often those cases are not in a fit state when they come to court.
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“There is not a good enough join-up across the criminal justice system … and that is exactly what we are addressing now by our investments and with our end to end rape review, and what would be good is if we’d have some support from the Opposition for tougher sentences for rapists and serious sexual offenders. What kind of a signal does it send when they won’t even back tougher sentences?”
Mr Johnson, whose government has launched an end to end review of the handling of rape reports, admitted the prosecution rate was "too low".
He said: “One of the first things I said when I came to this despatch box as Prime Minister was that I thought that rape prosecutions and convictions were too low and that’s why we had the end to end rape review, and that’s why we’ve been investing in independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers, another £27 million.
“That’s why we’ve been investing more in the Crown Prosecution Service, another £85 million. We’re also dealing with the misery experienced by rape victims and survivors who have to hand over their mobile phones, which I think has been one of the evidential problems that has arisen in prosecuting rape cases."