Boris Johnson branded a liar for saying police cuts not related to low rape convictions

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the audience as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak addresses the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Monday October 4, 2021. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/Empics
Prime Minister Boris Johnson was criticised for his comments. (PA)

Boris Johnson has been criticised for blaming the criminal justice system for low rape convictions without acknowledging the impact budget cuts have had on the courts.

Speaking to Sky News the prime minister said he is "totally fed up" with low levels of prosecution in rape cases but admitted it will be "incredibly tough" to hit the government’s target to reverse the crisis.

Johnson is coming under increasing pressure to tackle violence against women and girls after the murder of Sarah Everard shocked the nation.

On Tuesday, home secretary Priti Patel announced in an inquiry into the police after a former officer was sentenced to life in jail for the murder.

Johnson also denied that cuts during the years of austerity were to blame for plunging prosecution and conviction rates saying it “is not just a question of money”.

Watch: Boris Johnson says he cannot guarantee Rape Review targets to improve prosecution and conviction rates will be met by 2024


Read more: Sarah Everard: Police officer's actions were a 'product of an institution built on misogyny, racism and violence'

When speaking to the BBC, Johnson appeared to criticise problems with the defence using evidence from mobile phones when it came to stymying prosecutions.

He said the problems were "to do with the way we handle the evidence, and as you know the difficulties that are presented by mobile phones, in particular when the defence is able to seize upon this or that piece of data and use it in court, and that’s very complex."

In response to this, several prominent lawyers criticised Johnson's stance.

Watch: Government need to be more 'innovative' on rape prosecution

The Secret Barrister, an anonymous senior lawyer who has been a critic of the government in the past said: "The delays are not caused by the defence. Nor by COVID. 

"They have been caused by this government’s savage cuts to every part of the criminal justice system."

Law Society president Stephanie Boyce told the Evening Standard that Johnson's comments were "just plain wrong and surprising, given the very different conclusions reached in the UK government’s own Rape Review."

She said: “Tiny number of rape cases that get as far as a charge is nothing to do with defence lawyers. 

"They are also not responsible for years of underfunding and cuts including court closures, caps on judicial sitting days and a lack of investment in legal aid which have stretched the criminal justice system to breaking point."

Specialist family barrister Amy Beddis described the comments by Johnson as "depressing".

Prominent government critic Jo Maugham said he currently would not encourage a friend or colleague who had been raped to report it to the police.

Read more: Tory MP calls for end to government's 'war on woke'

A view of signage for the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service in Westminster, London.
A view of signage for the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service in Westminster, London.

Sine 2010, the Crown Prosecution Service has had its funding cut by 25% and police forces have lost over 20,000 officers.

The government has a target of 2024 to return the number of suspects charged with rape and the amount of cases reaching court to 2016 levels, when the decline in prosecutions began.

On Monday, the prime minister was unable to say whether he could look a rape victim in the eyes and tell them there is a high chance she will see justice, but he declined to apologise for the situation.

Crime and policing minister Kit Malthouse also denied the funding cuts were part of the problem.

Speaking to Sky News he said when he with Johnson when he was London mayor they saw a decline in crime in the capital while the numbers of met police officers were falling.

Watch: Priti Patel promises inquiry following Sarah Everard murder

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