Criminals go unpunished as victims lose faith in justice system, campaigners warn

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Police forces in England and Wales have recorded the highest number of crimes in 20 years, driven by a sharp rise in fraud, rape and violence. But the rate of suspects being charged fell to a new low, with just 5.6 per cent – one in every 18 – of the 6.3 million crimes recorded by police last year leading to a formal charge. The figure was one in six in March 2015.

The number of cases collapsing due to victims not supporting the prosecution has also trebled over the past seven years, prompting fears people are losing faith in the system.

Fury is mounting over “inhumane” and “agonisingly long” waits for trials, with many victims waiting months to discover if a suspect will be charged.

It may then take years for suspects to be hauled in front of a judge, with cases “often adjourned at the last minute” leaving victims in turmoil as they are unable to move on with their lives. A source told the Daily Express that threeyear waits for trials may become the norm.

And there are fears victims are waiting up to five years for cases to begin, the Express has learned.

Some people have become so traumatised by delays they have tried to take their own lives, a leading charity said.

Campaigners said the criminal justice system was on the brink of collapsing under the weight of a spiralling backlog of cases.

One lawyer said it was already on “life support” before Covid. And now it needs “resuscitation”, they said.

Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird said: “Victims across the board face years of unacceptable delays, and rape victims, as is so often the case, are at the back of the queue.

“Before the latest industrial action by the Criminal Bar, the Crown Court case backlog stood at over 59,000.

“The latest figures reveal that both the time taken to charge and the time to prosecution have grown astronomically.

“It now takes 437 days on average to complete a prosecution.That is up by an absurd and outrageous three months in the space of just one year. We are reaching inhumane levels of delay.”

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “Women and girls are still being systematically failed by a system that’s meant to protect them.

“And, worse still, they are being actively harmed by a process that treats them like the one under investigation, with rape myths and stereotypes informing decisionmaking at every stage of a victim’s journey through the justice system.

“We urgently call for transformation so that all victims receive procedural justice by being treated fairly and equally when they report rape and sexual violence.

“All of this is deeply alarming as the latest data shows more sexual offences are being recorded than ever before. However, we know that these figures are still just the tip of the iceberg.”

Record numbers of rapes (70,330), sexual offences (194,683), stalking and harassment offences (722,574) and violent crimes (2.1 million) were recorded in the year to March, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

Police-recorded offences of fraud and computer misuse have risen 17 per cent. Knife crime rose by 10 per cent to 49,027 offences in the year to March.

Separate Home Office figures published yesterday paint an alarming picture of the criminal justice system.

In the year to March, just 5.2 per cent of violent offences resulted in a suspect being charged.

And more than 40 per cent of victims of violence give up on justice by refusing to support the prosecution, it was said.

Only 4.1 per cent of thefts resulted in a thief being charged, and robbery prosecution rates were just 6.3 per cent. Only 1.3 per cent of alleged rapists were formally charged.

Domestic abuse campaigners fired a warning about the “downward trajectory” of prosecutions and convictions of violent thugs.

Police recorded 909,504 abuserelated offences in 2021/22, up 12 per cent since 2019/20.

But the End Violence Against Women Coalition said the number of charges authorised by the CPS fell to 43,836, from 50,838 in 2020/21.

The Coalition said: “We remain concerned that we are once again seeing a downward trajectory in charging, prosecution and convictions for domestic abuse.

“It is clear that there is a fundamental issue with the police and CPS approach to domestic abuse and that urgent action is required to investigate why this is happening and improve justice outcomes for victims and survivors.”

The Home Office yesterday insisted it wants police to “focus on the basics” of tackling crime.

A spokesman said: “The public rightly expect the police to protect them and ensure those that break the law face swift justice. We know there is more to be done and we expect the police to ensure they are getting the basics right.

“The Government has given policing an additional £1.1billion this year.

“We are also supporting the recruitment of 20,000 additional police officers across England and Wales.”

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