HC Deb 19 March 1998 vol 308 c682W
Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to amend the law in relation to rape. [33788]

Mr. Michael

The Government keep the law on rape under review to ensure that it is effective in punishing and deterring crime and is fair to victims.

A wide ranging inter-departmental review of the way in which vulnerable and intimidated witnesses are treated by the criminal justice system is currently being conducted. Amongst other things, this review is looking at ways to prevent unrepresented defendants from personally cross-examining victims in rape and other serious sexual offence cases, curbs on cross-examining victims about their previous sexual history and the more widespread use of the power to hear similar fact trials together as well as other measures to assist vulnerable or intimidated witnesses, including victims of rape. The review is nearing completion and we will be considering its recommendations very carefully.

In addition, the Home Office has commissioned a research study to discover what factors influence whether or not a recorded rape leads to a conviction and whether such factors have changed since a similar study of 1985 cases. This arises from concern that despite a significant increase in the number of reported rapes, the proportion of convictions have declined. The final report of this study will be available later this year. The Government will consider whether changes to the law are required in the light of these research findings.