Robert supports CPS campaign #ConsentIs

The Crown Prosecution Service has launched a social media campaign to get people talking about consent to sex within the context of sexual assault and rape.

This is in partnership with Rape Crisis, End Violence against Women Coalition, Survivors Manchester, White Ribbon Campaign and the National Union of Students.

There is confusion about consent, but there shouldn't be - so the CPS are encouraging people to talk about the issue and understand it, by using the hashtag #ConsentIs... on Twitter and Instagram.

The role of the Crown Prosecution Service is to consider whether cases reach the required threshold for prosecution, and to prosecute them if so. It is important that the public understands the principles on how and why they prosecute or not.

They want more people to recognise that consent is a concept that is easy to understand, particularly as it is something that rape cases can hinge on in court, and is a key consideration when deciding whether to bring charges.

Before I was elected as an MP, I spent nearly twenty years prosecuting and defending in cases of rape and sexual violence. I continue to play a direct role in this area, sometimes referring criminal sentences to the Court of Appeal as potentially unduly lenient, as a Government Law Officer. 

I am also a member of the inter-ministerial group VAWG, Violence Against Women and Girls, which has played a key role in obtaining funding to expand the number of rape crisis centres nationwide.

I am very glad to be a Minister in a Government that considers tackling rape and sexual violence to be a very important priority. No one should have to go through such a horrific ordeal, but when a sexual crime occurs, women need to know that they will be offered all of the expert advice and support they need to rebuild their lives and that the perpetrator will be put behind bars. Thanks to the work of the police in conjunction with government, progress is being made with the volume of convictions for sexual offences excluding rape now at the highest level ever.

Since 2011 £4.4 million has been provided to female Rape Support Centres in England and Wales, to create the 15 new centres created through the Rape Support Fund, adding to the 84 already in operation. I was pleased to see my colleagues in Government announce a further £10 million for local housing authorities to strengthen refuge services and to ensure that we have effective national coverage.

The centres will offer victims access to expert advice, support and counselling as well as practical help throughout the criminal justice system. They work with female victims who have experienced rape or sexual violence at any point in their lives. In addition to face to face counselling, there will also be support groups, female-only safe spaces and even access to counsellors through Skype.

Funding of these centres is part of a Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan, which set out plans to increase police referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service. 

Action has also been taken to protect more victims through national roll-out of the domestic violence disclosure scheme, known as 'Clare's Law', and nearly £40 million of funding for specialist local support services and national helplines has been ring-fenced, including more than 80 independent sexual violence advisers.