The deputy PM has been slammed for making false accusations that Starmer oversaw falling rape and sexual offence conviction rates while director of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Following Boris Johnson being fiercely criticised for making a false insinuation that the Labour leader had refused to prosecute the serial sex offender Jimmy Saville, the deputy prime minister has come under fire for a similar act of desperation to slur the opposition.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4’ Today programme, Raab incorrectly referred to rape conviction figures falling from 38.5% in 2008 to 33.8% in 2013.
“It is to do with Keir Starmer’s leadership as DPP,” he said.
Data from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) shows that from 2007 – 8 and 2013 – 14, conviction rates for this type of crime increased from 57.7% to 60.3%.
Women’s campaign groups hit out
The inaccuracy of Raab’s comments created a fiery response from women’s campaign groups, who were quick to point out the commendable work Starmer did in relation to sexual crime.
Talking to The Independent, Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said: “The important point to make is Keir Starmer did a huge amount of work to improve prosecution of rape and sexual offences.
“He was quite revolutionary as a director of Public Prosecutions in that respect. He did far more than other DPPs to improve the prosecution approach to rape and sexual offences.
“It is hugely outrageous to criticise him. The collapse in rape convictions has been in the last four or five years.”
Wistrich says the decline in rape convictions in recent years can be “partly” blamed on the Conservative government but is also due to limited resources and “attacks from high-profile” accused individuals who “complained after they were acquitted.”
Raab’ comments show ‘lack of understanding’
Wistrich, who is a human rights lawyer, said Raab’s comments show a “lack of understanding and analysis of what took place,” adding that condemning Starmer on this particular issue is “particularly unwarranted.”
Jess Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence, joined in the censure of Raab’s erroneous remarks.
“You have a serious nerve trying to use falling rape conviction when your government has basically overseen total degradation of rape charging,” the Labour MP said.
“Since you have been justice secretary sexual violence conviction has fallen. More rapists left on our streets. Cheers,” Phillips tweeted.
The Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley also shared how she wrote to Michael Gove, secretary for housing, communities and local government, several months ago citing how “victims of rape were living in unsafe, unregulated housing along with men where they are exploited and terrified.
“He [Gove] hasn’t replied so you get the gist of how much they care about victims of sexual violence.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward
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