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One million victims of crime abandon trials amid dwindling faith in justice system

Nearly one million victims of crime abandon trials even when suspects are identified amid dwindling faith in justice system and logjam in the courts

  • Number refusing to proceed with prosecutions is rising year on year since 2014
  • A staggering 22 per cent or 945,000 cases were withdrawn in the last year
  • The courts logjam reached 59,000 in July and had been struggling before Covid 


Fed-up victims of crime are refusing to proceed with prosecutions in nearly a million cases as faith in the justice system dwindles, according to shocking new figures revealed in The Mail on Sunday.

Records show the number withdrawing cooperation has been rising year-on-year since 2014-15 when it accounted for just under seven per cent of all offences.

The level now stands at a staggering 21.8 per cent – or 945,000 cases – in the year to March 2021 for England and Wales.

Fed-up victims of crime are refusing to proceed with prosecutions in nearly a million cases as faith in the justice system dwindles

Victims’ groups have blamed the logjam in the courts system – which was already struggling before the pandemic.

While the crown court backlog stood at 37,000 cases before Covid-19, it reached 59,000 in July.

And there were almost 400,000 outstanding cases in the magistrates’ court system.

Diana Fawcett, chief executive at Victim Support, said: ‘It is shocking, yet sadly unsurprising, to see significant increases in victims choosing not to support cases.

‘The reasons behind this are multiple and complex, but we do know from working with victims of all types of crimes that the long waits for trial and their negative experience of the criminal justice system, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, may be contributing to this. Victims are now waiting up to four years to get justice in some cases.

‘This has had a detrimental effect on their confidence in the justice system and their engagement with the process altogether.’

A survey carried out by Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird and released last week found a third of victims would not report a crime again because of poor experience with the police.

A survey carried out by Victims' Commissioner Dame Vera Baird and released last week found a third of victims would not report a crime again

A survey carried out by Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird and released last week found a third of victims would not report a crime again

‘The message from my recent victim survey was clear: victims want to be treated fairly and respectfully, and be provided with clear, timely and accurate information,’ said Dame Vera. 

‘Yet my survey showed victims are disillusioned with our justice system, and these figures in The Mail on Sunday further back this up. 

‘Based on their experience of reporting a crime to the police, more than a third of victims told me they would not report again. Of those who made it to court, just half said they would attend again.

‘That so many victims were so disillusioned by their experience suggests something is deeply wrong with how the police, the CPS and the courts deal with them.’

In her annual report for 2020/21, published in July, Dame Vera remarked that some crime victims ‘are now facing years of unacceptable delay in their quest for justice’.

She warned: ‘Delay prevents victims processing their trauma, with their lives put on hold as a result.

‘This means some victims will simply decide to opt out of the criminal justice system altogether, leaving them with no resolution and the public with the risk of a guilty criminal free to offend again.’

A spokeswoman for the National Police Chiefs’ Council said: ‘There are many reasons why a victim may be apprehensive in supporting a case, even when a suspect has been identified. For example, the time it may take for a case to come to trial. 

‘All criminal justice partners are committed to working to support victims and witnesses and improve the timeliness of cases being heard.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘We are doing more than ever to build back confidence in the justice system – recruiting 20,000 more police officers, boosting funding for support services and for the first time enshrining victims’ rights in law. Our £450 million investment to deliver speedier justice is also turning the tide.

‘Outstanding magistrates’ cases have been falling for a year and crown courts are working at pre-Covid levels.’

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