Shadow solicitor basic Ellie Reeves MP says violence in opposition to ladies and women is ‘near the highest’ of her agenda. We’re talking throughout 16 days of ‘activism in opposition to gender-based violence’, a United Nations marketing campaign that has particular significance in 2020 – proof from charities and helplines has borne out fears expressed at first of March that lockdown and homeworking would improve home abuse.
Even with out the pandemic, progress on stopping such violence has flatlined or declined by some measures. Vera Baird QC was Solicitor Common within the final Labour authorities, and as Victims Commissioner the dramatic drop in rape convictions is a key preoccupation. Reeves and Baird are in common contact on the difficulty.
‘I used to be an employment rights lawyer,’ Reeves, who was elected to parliament in 2017, begins, ‘so I’ve all the time performed plenty of work in relation to ladies’s rights. I used to be doing plenty of discrimination work in the previous couple of years of my authorized profession, I suggested ladies and households round discrimination at work, discrimination of services, these kinds of points, so I’ve lengthy been an advocate for girls’s rights. I received on to the Justice Choose Committee the place we regularly checked out points round CPS prosecution of rapes.’
Violence in opposition to ladies and women, Reeves factors out, could be linked to wider issues that the justice system faces. ‘Greater than 50% of ladies that sit in our prisons have been victims of home violence,’ she says. ‘That’s a very necessary statistic. I’m deeply involved about it. In April this yr I used to be appointed shadow solicitor basic and the difficulty round home violence, rape and critical sexual violence have been near the highest of my agenda in that function. Loads of issues are occurring in the mean time, however for me that’s the factor that I preserve coming again to and its very, very excessive up my agenda.’
‘The justice system is admittedly letting down victims of rape and critical sexual violence, and victims of home violence,’ she continues. ‘There was backlog of instances pre-covid, for positive, there’s a mixed whole in magistrates courts and crown courts of half one million instances ready to be heard and victims being advised their trials gained’t go forward till 2022, and admittedly it’s not ok when you’ve been a sufferer of any crime. In case you’ve been a sufferer of home violence or of rape… fairly frankly you would possibly find yourself giving up on the prison justice system. And I believe that it’s actually worrying this big backlog in instances. I believe it’s actually must be tackled.’
Reeves has particular criticisms of the federal government on this level. ‘Initially the federal government was very sluggish to get Nightingale courts up and operating. Extra may have been performed,’ she says, however provides that issues within the justice system pre-date the influence of Covid-19. ‘The cuts within the CPS implies that instances simply aren’t being handled as they must be.’
Tight assets have additionally restricted the CPS and police’s means to course of digital information in rape and assault instances, she provides. I put it to her that the issue isn’t just considered one of resourcing although – society’s attitudes are by definition represented in juries. Simply as they have been as soon as seen as failing to convict the place a girl who alleges sexual assault had been sporting a brief skirt, so now they misinterpret the knowledge thrown up by a ‘digital strip search’.
Reeves gained’t think about limiting jury trials, although. ‘Jury trials are extremely necessary,’ she argues. ‘I believe there was some suggestion at first of the pandemic that instances may very well be sped up by disposing of jury trials. I believe that’s a very, actually slippery slope to go down.’
Motion is required although, for jury trials to ship a good final result. ‘It’s necessary that plenty of stereotypes are damaged down,’ Reeves says. ‘Simply because somebody has despatched a selected message or a selected image to somebody prior to now doesn’t imply they’ll’t declare to be a sufferer of rape or critical sexual violence. I believe that’s extremely necessary. Not only for jurors however for the CPS in deciding which instances to tackle. I do know as a part of the rape assessment the CPS are doing.’
Reeves says the CPS assessment ought to report ahead of deliberate (2025 is its attainable supply date). ‘Just one in seven victims trust that the justice system will ship for them,’ she factors out. ‘In 2019 2020 there have been 55,000 reviews of rape to the police. Simply in need of 1900 instances have been charged by the CPS. Which is a tiny proportion. There’s a actually actually critical problem right here, I don’t assume it may be defined away by saying the police are referring fewer instances. I believe it’s much more basic than that.’
Reeves frequently makes use of inquiries to the Lawyer Common to focus on violence in opposition to ladies and women. However elevating home violence in parliament, she says, is irritating. ‘This authorities is sweet at saying we’re supporting victims of home violence, however once you take a look at the precise statistics, once you look on the bottom, the fact is kind of completely different.’ For instance, ‘we all know there was funding that got here for the home violence hotline that got here from authorities. However we don’t know if that’s going to proceed after march, so organisations and charities working on this sphere can’t plan. They don’t know if they’ll proceed plenty of their core providers past March. That isn’t proper’.
The day we converse charity Sufferer Help UK printed a report, which incorporates proof that ladies who made allegations of violence and abuse obtained solutions to make use of civil routes, resembling non-molestation orders, moderately than anticipate a prison justice final result. It completes an image of a UK response to violence in opposition to ladies and women which is failing at each degree.
Reeves concludes: ‘If the rape victims don’t trust within the prison justice system; if victims are being advised they’ve to attend until 2022, two years, for a trial; if rape prosecutions are at their lowest degree ever; if persons are advised to go down the route of the civil courts as a result of the prison courts are overwhelmed – then the fact is that we’re far, far in need of supporting victims the place they want that assist most. And that worries me an ideal deal.’
Extra details about the 16 days of activism could be discovered here.