Labour accuse Government of 'decriminalising rape' with new Bill of Rights
Shadow justice minister Ellie Reeves said the Bill of Rights is an attack on women
The Bill of Rights is not just an attack on victims of crime, but is an attack on women, Labour has said.
On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab placed the Bill of Rights before the Commons for the first time.
The measures contained in the Bill will effectively end the requirement of UK courts to follow human rights rulings from the European Court of Human Rights.
Responding to Mr Raab’s statement, shadow justice minister Ellie Reeves described the Bill as an attack on women, as she accused the Government of “effectively decriminalising rape”.
She pointed to last week’s scorecards, which she claimed showed “pitiful progress on the record low rape convictions under this Government”.
The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister refuted the accusations, arguing there is “absolutely nothing” in the Bill of Rights that will weaken the protection of victims.
He also urged Ms Reeves to get her facts “straight”, as he pointed out the volume of rape convictions increased by two thirds in the last year alone.
Conservative former Cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom told MPs she was “disgusted” by the shadow minister’s comments, arguing they undermine “the confidence of women across this country in our judicial system”.
Ms Reeves said: “This Bill of Rights con isn’t just an attack on victims of crime who the state has failed to protect. It’s an attack on women. Women have used the Human Rights Act to challenge the police when they have either failed or refused to investigate rape and sexual assault cases.”
She added: “It should come as no surprise that this Bill has been put forward by a Conservative Government that has effectively decriminalised rape.
“Last week’s scorecards showed pitiful progress on the record low rape convictions under this Government. The typical waits for cases to complete in court has reached three years, and a fifth have seen waits of four years. And that’s if the case even gets to court.”
She added: “So, will victims even bother to report their case at all when they learn his Bill of Rights will stop them from forcing our under-resourced police to investigate?
“It says everything about a Law Chancellor and a Government that is soft on rape, soft on rapists and hard on survivors that they want to take away the final backstop available to victims to get justice.”
Mr Raab replied: “Let us be absolutely crystal clear. There is absolutely nothing in this Bill of Rights that will do anything to weaken the protections of victims. Far from it, in relation to deportation of foreign national criminals, in relation to the release of dangerous rapists, in relation to what we do inside our prisons, this will strengthen our protection of victims and public protection.
“Again, for the record, on such a serious issue on which I agree with her the importance, she might get her facts straight. The volume of rape convictions has increased by two thirds in the last year alone.”
Later on in the debate, Dame Andrea said: “I am frankly disgusted by what the shadow minister had to say. And in particular, to suggest that honourable members on this side would be soft on rape.
“She sits there shaking her head now. That is a shameful thing to say, and it undermines the confidence of women across this country in our judicial system.
“Does my right honourable friend (Dominic Raab) agree with me that we can be incredibly confident in the years, centuries of our UK judicial system to represent the interests of everybody in this country?”
Mr Raab agreed with the MP for South Northamptonshire, adding: “We ought to be trying to build on the progress that we have made and not do it down, because that’s the stuff that undermines women’s confidence in the justice system.
“We know there is much more to do, but that work is not going to get done with frankly hyperbolic language.”