Today, Labour have brought an Opposition Day motion to the Commons to urge the Government to act on the enormous backlog of Crown Court cases, and to do more to stop violence against women and girls.
The backlog in the Crown Court is now at record levels of more than 57,000 cases – and sat at 39,000 even before the pandemic began. The backlog has been exacerbated by the pandemic but it was created by the Conservatives closing half of all courts in England and Wales between 2010-19 and allowing 27,000 fewer sitting days than in 2016.
We called for a package of emergency measures during the pandemic, including mass-testing in courts, the extension of Nightingale Courts, reduced juries until restrictions were lifted – all of which the government ignored. Labour has is now calling for a guaranteed 33,000 extra sitting days and more Nightingale Courts to clear the backlog.
The Conservatives are failing to protect women and girls from violent criminals, which should be one of the first duties of any government. With record low conviction rates for perpetrators of sexual violence and an epidemic of misogyny that makes women and girls feel unsafe, this Government is treating victims of violence as an afterthought.
Seven in 10 women say the Government’s efforts to make the UK safer for women are not working. 89% of women and 76% of men say tougher sentencing for sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic violence would make women safer. Enough is enough. Labour is putting tackling gender-based violence at the very top of our agenda. Where the Conservatives have failed to step up, Labour have stepped in by publishing a Green Paper on ending the epidemic of violence against women and girls.
Labour’s plans include: making misogyny a hate crime; increasing sentences for rapists and stalkers; creating new specific offences for street sexual harassment and sex for rent; reversing this government’s record low conviction rates for rape with a Survivors Support Package; removing legal barriers that prevent victims of domestic abuse getting the help they need through legal aid; bringing in new custodial sentences for those who name victims of rape and sexual assault, training teachers to help identify; respond to and support child victims of domestic abuse; repealing the rape clause for social security claims; and introducing binding national indicators to hold the Government to account.
The Conservatives have promised a Victims’ Bill in almost every Queen’s Speech since 2016. Yet five years on, their bill still has not appeared in Parliament.
Labour has its Victims’ Bill published, brought to Parliament, and ready to go. Instead of publishing a ‘draft’, the government should work with Labour to implement its Victims Bill immediately to enshrine the rights of victims and those who suffer persistent anti-social behaviour.