Trial backlogs for sex offenses have reportedly more than doubled in some parts of the UK
Rape victims in the UK reportedly face a ‘postcode lottery’ situation where the chances of their case being delayed is nearly two times the likelihood of going to trial on time due to ballooning court-case backlogs. Victims in some areas have had to wait for over five years to get their day in court, according to a Daily Mail report on Monday.
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The paper, which cited recent analysis of Ministry of Justice data by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), reported that the list of sex-offense cases awaiting trial had more than doubled in parts of the country over the past two years. This has led to lengthy delays for victims, some of whom have reportedly withdrawn cases, citing “stress” and “suicidal” thoughts.
According to the CBA analysis reported by the paper, the situation is most dire in the Midlands region where some 56% of trials fail to begin on their scheduled date. This is higher than the national average for delayed trials, which has been pegged at 44% starting as scheduled.
As a result, the backlog of sex-offense trials in the area has more than doubled to 1,282 between July and September 2021, from 634 over the same period in 2019.
That works out to more than the combined current backlog for sex cases in London and Wales – 944 cases and 268 cases respectively, the Daily Mail reported. At the national level, there were more than 6,400 outstanding sexual-offense trials across England and Wales as of the end of September.
The delays have reportedly led to campaigners raising concerns about attacks on more victims, while the CBA warned that the justice system was “starved of criminal barristers.” The paper also highlighted problems such as the lack of specialist rape and sexual assault prosecutors, reduced legal aid fees, shortages of judges and defense lawyers.
“Five years or more for a rape complainant to see a trial conclude is rapidly becoming the norm, not the exception,” CBA Chairman Jo Sidhu told the Daily Mail. He added that more lawyers were needed “not just to defend, but also to prosecute and provide the judges needed to tackle record backlogs and delays.”
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry has reportedly pledged a £1 billion ($1.3 billion) investment to bolster court capacity recently. An unnamed spokesman told the paper that the “pandemic [had] created unprecedented issues for the criminal justice system.”