The government’s end to end rape review published today (Rape review) acknowledges, right at the start, that there are too many cases where those reporting rape have not been given the professional, diligent, empathic support they deserve by those investigating and prosecuting the crime. It’s a positive step to read this and to see ministers acknowledge the problems and admit that they are ashamed at the steep decline in prosecutions and convictions for rape over the past five years. The professed aim is to right this wrong, understand why victims are being let down and deliver lasting improvements to the way rape is investigated and prosecuted, so that victims are supported and have confidence that perpetrators will be brought to justice.

The Victims Commissioner, and others, have welcomed the review but, and it’s a big but, have reservations, serious reservations, about whether the government’s proposals will actually achieve their aims and objectives. The government aims to make sure that victims have “access to quality support, appropriate to their needs” and “access to the right therapeutic and clinical support”. All well and good. But these are basic rights and needs that have been identified as crucial for far longer than it took the review to identify their absence. Like many services in the criminal justice system (and beyond) they have been undervalued and under-resourced for far too long. Can we be confident that this will change as a result of the review?

One of the most distressing aspects of the approach to rape investigation has been the fact that so many victims have felt that they are, somehow, on trial themselves, that their veracity is constantly being questioned by those they should be able to rely on in their entirely legitimate search for justice. Victims can have their mobile phones taken from them for extended periods of time , find their “digital footprint” analysed in minute detail and very much left with the impression that they are somehow on trial for the crime that has been inflicted on them. The review has the ambition to change this – but an “ambition” is seen by many as not quite cutting it. Is this ambition, laudable though it may be on one level, yet another example of the “government speak” with which we have all become far too familiar since the days of Sir Humphrey and Jim Hacker.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that that review has met with underwhelming approbation. To identify that the police and CPS will “establish a culture of effective joint working” comes as something of a shock. Why? Because many of us who worked on the “No Witness, No Justice” programme many years ago actually thought this was what we were aiming to deliver then. And so the wheels continue to turn even if they aren’t actually moving anything along.

The action plan that is contained in the review has much by way of aspiration. But, as the Victims’ Commissioner has pointed out in her response, (Commissioners’ response) there is a clear imperative to make sure that these aspirations are matched by resources: the significant cut to funding in the criminal justice arena over many years will not easily be rectified and, if it isn’t, can we really expect different results from those which we now recognise as a crisis in the system.

Sensitive, robust and comprehensive investigation of all crime, especially the most serious, matched with a criminal justice system that helps and supports people to navigate their way through complex and often bewildering processes, matched with effective, outcomes-based support services are the very basics that we, as a professed civilized society need. If this review is to deliver these, something which has been the mantra of ministers (and others) for many years (“victims at the heart of the criminal justice system”) then this review will need more than apologies and fine words if it is to become the reality we all need it to be.