Labour maps out plan to deal with 'shocking' rape case backlog

Labour frontbencher says taking violence against women would be a top priority
Labour frontbencher says taking violence against women would be a top priority

Steve Reed also spoke about his own experiences of crime revealing how he was attacked at knife-point 20 years ago

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Shadow Justice Secretary Steve Reed says he’d introduce specialist courts dealing with rape - to clear the “shocking” backlog of cases.

In an exclusive interview with GB News, the Labour frontbencher said tackling the “epidemic of violence” women face would be top of his priorities on day one should Labour win power at the next Election.

Speaking to Gloria De Piero he said: “The first thing I want to do, out of everything that I’ve seen going wrong in the criminal justice system, is deal with this epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Steve Reed described the current situation as 'shocking'
Steve Reed described the current situation as 'shocking'

“When you look at the stats, barely one in a hundred reported rapes ever results in a conviction. That’s effectively decriminalising rape in my opinion. And if you’re one of those few women, and it’s nearly always women, who is a rape survivor who gets to court, the average wait is three years.

“That’s shocking when you’ve been a victim of an offence like that. So, the first thing I would do is order the opening of specialist rape courts, because that way we can speed up these cases.

“I’d like to get them down to below a six month wait rather than a three year wait, and I want to cut the backlog in the court so that if you are a victim of an offence as violent and aggressive as rape, you have confidence that the criminal justice system is on your side.”

Reed also spoke about his own experiences of crime revealing how he was attacked at knife-point 20 years ago.

Even now, he said, he is unable to wear headphones when in the street as he fears being attacked again.

Recalling what happened he said: “I was coming back from a barbeque in Brixton, and I walked around the corner towards the house where I lived, and two guys jumped out from behind a wall just as I’d turned the corner.

“One of them grabbed me with a knife at my throat and the other one started rifling through my pockets and took away a bag that I was carrying. I was frozen stiff because there was a knife on my throat, and afterwards when I got home and looked in the mirror there was a nick where the knife had been, so this was a real thing.

“So, given the role I’ve got today, it gave me a real insight into what it’s like to be a victim of a potentially very violent crime. You know, nothing more than that happened, they stole my wallet, they stole the bag that I was carrying, but I was shaken, and that fear lasted a long time.

“I was very afraid to walk down darkened streets at night for months after that incident. I’m much more aware of who’s around me, even today I still won’t wear earphones because I can’t hear who’s walking along behind me.

“So, I know how being a victim of crime can affect your perception of the world around you. And it’s one of the reasons I’ve always felt very strongly that we have to tackle crime, because it stops people going about their legitimate business, and leading their life freely in the way that they should do. It’s incredibly intrusive.”BB

Reed said the attackers, who were never caught, should have faced justice.

“My first instinct was to try and catch and punish them for what they’d done. And I wanted that to happen, because they had done something that had left me fearful, they’d physically taken things away from me.

“You feel invaded. And I wanted them punished. But I also wanted them caught, and I wanted them locked up if that were the appropriate thing to do with them, so that they couldn’t do this to other people. Because you shouldn’t be allowed to wander around and harm and injure and frighten and steal from other people living in our society. It’s just not acceptable. And I take that learning into the role I’ve got today.

“But like every other victim, I’d rather not have been a victim in the first place. So, I’d like there to be a much stronger emphasis on prevention of crime. I think that there’s a lot more we could do that way.”

Asked if he felt Labour had veered too much towards the right of the criminal under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership he admitted: “I recognise the perception and I think under Labour’s previous leader we went too far in that direction. That’s my view. But we’ve now got a very different leader in Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions who was knighted for his work effectively in helping to cage criminals. So, you know, he puts a very strong emphasis on the fight against crime.”

Meanwhile Reed, who is openly gay, also said he’d witnessed extraordinary changes in the way politicians who decide to come out are received.

He told GB News: “I mean the changes I've seen over my lifetime are quite extraordinary really, because today, as you say, no one really is bothered and that's how it should be. I should be judged on how I do my job, not who I am. And I believe that's the case for everyone else as well.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said:

“Tackling violence against women is our top priority and rape convictions increased by 65 per cent to 69.1 per cent last year as a result of the significant work we have been doing.

“This Government has quadrupled victim support funding since 2010, is rolling out a new suspect-centred approach to police investigations, has launched a new 24/7 rape and sexual abuse helpline and introduced pre-recorded cross-examination to spare victims the trauma of a live courtroom. We will continue working tirelessly to deliver the support and justice that victims deserve.”

The full interview is broadcast this Sunday from 6pm on Gloria Meets on GB News.