Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
At Attorney General’s questions this morning, I raised the findings of the analysis conducted by journalist Harriet Clugston into charging decisions made by the CPS in rape cases over the period April 2017 to September 2022, as published in the National World on 27-28 April.
In your response, you said you had looked into the issues raised by this analysis, and you indicated that there might be good explanations as to why up to 1,600 suspects investigated during this period for committing rape had ended up being charged with lesser offences.
I welcome the careful consideration you have clearly given to this matter, but what your response did not address is what I consider to be the central issue at stake here, namely whether those 1,600 cases were counted towards the official calculations of the charge rate for rape over the past five years, even though the suspects in those cases were not charged with a rape offence.
Given the grave and widespread concern that already exists over the abysmally low charge rate for rape, you will appreciate how incredibly serious and disturbing it would be if it emerges that the percentage of rape offences leading to an actual rape charge is even lower than we currently think.
I sincerely hope that is not the case, but I would be grateful if you could consult the CPS and clarify the position as a matter of urgency. And if the National World’s analysis is accurate, I hope that immediate steps will be taken both to publish corrected figures for rape charges over the period in question, and to ensure that the accurate data is published up front in the future.
Finally, if your further enquiries with the CPS on this issue do establish that lesser, non-rape charges are indeed being counted towards the current rape charge numbers, the next question we are bound to ask is whether the same is true in other categories of offence where unacceptably low charge rates have been a matter of public concern in recent years, from knife crime to theft.
If that is the case, then I believe a much more systematic account would be required from the CPS about the real current charge rates across all major categories of crime, along with a statement of how they propose to ensure greater accuracy and transparency in their future publications.
Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Shadow Attorney General