HC Deb 18 December 1980 vol 996 c542
11. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will institute a review of the legislation relating to rape to ensure that adequate penalties are available to the courts.

Mr. Brittan

I cannot think that such a review is necessary, as the maximum sentence for rape is already life imprisonment.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that the annual figures for rape show that the incidence of that crime has increased by 400 per cent. over the past 30 years? Does he not agree that rape is an appalling crime that affects women and young children? It is difficult to conceive that anything other than custodial sentence should be given to those who are found guilty. Will my hon. and learned Friend at least review that part of the law on rape?

Mr. Brittan

It is the task of the House to provide the courts with adequate penalties, but according to our system it is for the courts to decide what penalties should be applied. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment, and that indicates that the House shares—as I am sure every hon. Member does—the serious view that my hon. Friend has rightly expressed.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Has the Minister seen the report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee, which recommends that rape should be an offence when it is committed against wives, just as it is an offence when committed against other women? Would the hon. and learned Gentleman care to comment on that?

Mr. Brittan

I would rather not comment on that, because the report that the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to is a working paper. The committee has not finished its work or produced its final report. When it does so, we shall consider it.

Mr. Lawrence

Have the reforms in the law on sexual offences, which the House introduced during the last Parliament, been effective?

Mr. Brittan

It is difficult to give a clear-cut answer. Indeed, it is impossible to do so within the ambit of my hon. Friend's question.

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