Exclusive: 74% of Brits back minimum seven-year sentence for rape, poll shows

Sienna Rodgers

The overwhelming majority of British adults support the proposal put forward by Labour of a minimum seven-year sentence for rape convictions, exclusive polling by Savanta ComRes for LabourList can reveal.

The research shows 74% of Brits endorse the idea of introducing a statutory minimum sentence of seven years for rape convictions and just 7% oppose it. The policy has been promoted by Labour in recent months.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland apologised earlier this month to rape victims for low conviction rates in England and Wales. Over the last five years, cases reported to police have risen but prosecutions have more than halved.

“It’s impossible to separate these appalling statistics from the decade of Conservative cuts that have accompanied them,” Labour said. Only 3% of reported rapes in England and Wales were prosecuted last year.

The poll indicates 71% support new specific offences for public sexual harassment and just 9% oppose the move. This proposal is also in Labour’s green paper on ending the epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Asked whether they support classifying misogyny as a hate crime, a total of 52% back the idea – including 49% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 and 61% who voted Labour – with only 10% opposing the policy.

61% – rising to 66% among women only – believe the government is not doing enough to tackle violence against women and girls, while 25% say enough is being done and 15% said they do not know.

On increasing rape prosecution rates, 63% think the government is not doing enough, including 36% who say it is “not doing anywhere near enough”. 22% of Brits – 30% of men and 14% of women – say enough is being done.

Savanta ComRes associate director Chris Hopkins said: “These figures are pretty clear in that the public do not think the government are doing enough to tackle violence and women or increase the rape conviction rate.

“The public support for specific offences for public sexual harassment and a statutory minimum sentence for rape convictions in particular show that introducing this legislation would be a fairly easy win for the government and if anything, the longer women in particular are left waiting for it, implies the government simply cares more about other issues – which is not a good look.”

The polling shows disappointment in government inaction on violence against women, as well as clear support for the introduction of policies announced by Labour following news of the disappearance of Sarah Everard.

Labour has backed calls to make misogyny a hate crime, toughen existing sentences for perpetrators of rape and stalking, create new specific offences for street sexual harassment and ‘sex for rent’ landlords.

The opposition party has published a green paper setting out its policies and is currently asking members of the public to submit their views on eliminating violence against women and girls by emailing [email protected].

Responding to the polling conducted for LabourList, Shadow Solicitor General Ellie Reeves said: “This government has failed victims of rape on every front. The protection of women and girls from violence is one of the first duties of any government.

“The government’s end to end rape review should have been a real opportunity to address their shameful failings. Instead all it has done is introduce piecemeal pilots, tinkering on the edges and next to no new money to address the systemic failures of the criminal justice system.

“To make things worse, just last week the Conservatives voted against Labour’s proposals to make it easier for rape victims across the country to give evidence, to increase sentences for rapists, stalkers and those who break the anonymity of rape victims, as well as to create a new offence for street sexual harassment.

“The government should urgently introduce Labour’s root and branch reforms to support rape victims, as set out in our ending violence against women and girls green paper.”

Below are the results of the polling by Savanta ComRes in full.

To what extent would you say that the current government is, or is not, doing enough in each of the following policy areas?

Tackling violence against women and girls

Doing more than enough – 9%
Doing about enough – 17%
Not doing quite enough – 29%
Not doing anywhere near enough – 32%
Don’t know – 15%

Increasing rape prosecution rates

Doing more than enough – 8%
Doing about enough – 14%
Not doing quite enough – 27%
Not doing anywhere near enough – 36%
Don’t know – 15%

To what extent do you support or oppose each of the following?

Classifying misogyny as a hate crime

Strongly support – 27%
Somewhat support – 25%
Neither support nor oppose – 24%
Somewhat oppose – 6%
Strongly oppose – 4%
Don’t know – 14%

Specific offences for public sexual harassment

Strongly support – 39%
Somewhat support – 31%
Neither support nor oppose – 16%
Somewhat oppose – 4%
Strongly oppose – 3%
Don’t know – 7%

Specific offences for public sexual harassment

Strongly support – 39%
Somewhat support – 31%
Neither support nor oppose – 16%
Somewhat oppose – 4%
Strongly oppose – 3%
Don’t know – 7%

A statutory minimum sentence of seven years for rape convictions

Strongly support – 50%
Somewhat support – 24%
Neither support nor oppose – 13%
Somewhat oppose – 4%
Strongly oppose – 3%
Don’t know – 6%

Polling by Savanta: ComRes for LabourList. Fieldwork conducted 25th-27th June 2021. Poll of 2,148 adults in the UK.

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