Press release – Tougher sentences for ‘rough sex’ killers – Ministry of Justice

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A new statutory aggravating factor will be brought in for offenders who cause death through abusive, degrading or dangerous sexual behaviour – or so-called ‘rough sex’ – meaning killers are handed down tougher sentences than ever before.

The measure, announced today (14 February 2024), builds upon action taken in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to clarify in law that there is no such thing as the ‘rough sex defence’, and comes as the government publishes its latest Rape Review progress report.

These figures reveal that more vile rapists are paying for their crimes as adult rape prosecutions are approaching the highest levels seen at any point since 2014 showing the government’s efforts are working.

To ensure these efforts don’t let up, the government has also appointed leading academic Professor Katrin Hohl as the new Independent Advisor to the Rape Review.

Having led a ground-breaking scheme to overhaul the way in which police forces investigate rape – Operation Soteria – Professor Hohl also carried out one of the largest ever surveys of victims to better understand how they can be supported.

To ensure all victims know the support available to them, the government has also launched a Victims’ Code campaign, to raise awareness of the rights everyone can expect to receive as a victim of crime.

Through the Victims and Prisoners Bill, police, prosecutors and prison and probation workers will also have a new Code Awareness Duty to make sure victims know their rights – including the right to be referred to a support service, receive updates on their case and the right to make a victim personal statement.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:

This government is on the side of victims, who should be supported throughout their journey through the criminal justice system, and our new Victims’ Code campaign sets out exactly what they can expect every step of the way.

But we must also hold offenders to account. This new aggravating factor send a clear message that killers who threaten the safety of women can expect to feel the full force of the law.

The campaign was developed hand-in-hand with criminal justice agencies and victim support organisations, and materials demonstrating that the Victims’ Code is there for every victim, whatever the crime, are being cascaded across England and Wales.

This builds on work to make sure victims get the justice they deserve, and offenders pay for their crimes, including making rapists and serious sexual offenders serve their full custodial term in prison and to widening the use of whole life orders for the worst offenders.

Minister for Victims and Safeguarding Laura Farris said:

As today’s report shows we have made significant improvements in the response to rape across the criminal justice system with adult rape prosecutions approaching the highest levels seen in the last decade and number of adult rape cases arriving at the Crown Court is higher than at any point since 2014.

While there is still much work do, Professor Hohl’s expertise will be vital in driving this further.

Independent Advisor to the Rape Review Professor Katrin Hohl said:

Rape is the most serious survivable crime in English and Welsh law. The purpose of the rape review is to reform the criminal justice process so it is fit for purpose for rape victims and effective in holding perpetrators to account. As the Independent Advisor, I will challenge and support the government in achieving this ambition.

I commend the progress made to date. My priority is to help tackle the remaining challenges, such as timeliness, strengthening victims’ rights and meeting victims’ needs, head-on.

Fiona Mackenzie, Founder of We Can’t Consent to This campaign added:

This is an important step in ensuring that men who kill women in sexually motivated violence do not get away with a lighter sentence. This change should ensure that any future perpetrators of violence of this sort are properly punished, and send a clear message that this violence against women is unacceptable in our society.

Further to this, pioneering CPS areas, police forces, and leading academics developed new National Operating Models for the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences through Operation Soteria. This sees police and prosecutors working more closely together to build stronger cases.

All police forces and prosecutors in England and Wales are now 6 months into implementation, with the number of cases assigned a charge in the latest quarter being over 25 per cent higher than the same period in the previous year.

This support is crucial, especially for victims of rape – with around 60 per cent of investigations closing because the victim did not support -or withdrew support from- police action.

The government is also continuing to bolster support services, quadrupling victims funding by 2024/25, up from £41 million in 2009/10, and using ringfenced funding to increase the number of Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse Advisors by 300 to over 1,000 – a 43% increase by 2024/5.

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