Survivors of sexual assault suffer ‘devastating’ impact in backlog of cases in crown courts: report

The charity Rape Crisis England & Wales said its Breaking Point report, published on Monday, describes how a “crisis” in the crown courts has led to a “record” backlog of 7,859 sex offense cases and 1,851 rape cases. of adults.

It said a freedom of information request to HM Courts and Tribunal Service revealed that the number of vacant and ineffective rape trials, “therefore delayed”, more than doubled from 2019-2020 to 2021-2022.

The same data shows that the number of trials that were postponed at least once increased by 133%, he said.

The number of cases with three or more prior trial dates has nearly doubled, and there were five times as many hearings that had been rescheduled six or more times, it added.

In the latest quarter of available data, the charity said cases of adult rape and sexual offenses in the Crown Court backlog have risen by more than 1,000 cases.

There has also been a “huge increase” in the number of ineffective trials due to a lack of defense counsel, he added.

He said a breakdown of the reasons for ineffective trial lists given to the Select Committee on Justice showed that 1,925 cases were due to the prosecution’s attorney not showing up in the year to June 20, 2022, an increase of 1,722 in two years.

The charity said victims and survivors of rape and other sexual crimes are “waiting longer than anyone else for their experiences to be heard in court, with an average wait of 839 days from report to finalization in court.” .

He said such delays are having a “devastating impact” on victims and survivors, as some attempt suicide while long waits deter others from seeking justice.

Rape Crisis England & Wales chief executive Jayne Butler said: “At Breaking Point, we shed light on the disastrous impact the growing backlog in the crown courts is having on victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault.

“Repeated postponement and rescheduling of cases is devastating the mental well-being of victims and survivors – the criminal justice system is hurting them.

“In addition to years-long police investigations and long periods of hearing nothing, victims and survivors face having their cases rescheduled in court, often multiple times, or discovering that they have not been informed of key developments, such as changes in trial dates.

“Whether intentional or not, this further marginalizes victims and survivors, who already feel unprioritized in an unbalanced system.

“All of this is why we have long called for the establishment of specialized sexual violence and abuse courts, where judicial staff and the judiciary would have trauma-informed training.

“We are also calling for rape and sexual assault cases to be given a ‘priority list,’ which would move them through the system much faster and give them a guaranteed court date, reducing the uncertainty many victims and survivors place in us. they have said it is causing them extreme stress and anxiety.

“We ask for clear and formalized communication agreements between all criminal justice agencies so that survivors are informed about key changes in the trial.

“It is vital that adequate and longer-term funding is provided for life-saving rape crisis services, so that survivors have the specialized support they need if they choose to report to the criminal justice system.”

Reacting to the report, Ellie Reeves MP, Shadow Justice Minister for the Labor Party, said: “After 13 years of failure, the Conservatives are not in action in the fight to tackle violence against women and girls.

“CPS staff and court numbers have declined since 2010, and the government has left the system powerless to deal with the largest court backlog on record.

“Rape survivors are now denied justice for years, with a fraction of the number of rapists being punished.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The government is making real improvements in the response to rape: in the last year alone, the number of rape cases referred by police to CPS has increased by more than 50%, the number of accused suspects has increased. increased by 54% and convictions increased by 65% ​​compared to last year.

“We know more needs to be done, particularly to give victims confidence and support, which is why we have quadrupled funding for victim services, allowed victims to pre-record court evidence before and away from defendants, and we launched a 24/7 Helpline with Rape Crisis”.


Leave a Reply