More trauma for rape victims as courtroom backlog doubles in two years resulting from lawyer scarcity | EUROtoday

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Court backlogs for rape prosecutions have soared to a report excessive with the variety of circumstances doubling in two years and victims dealing with “devastating” waits for justice.

Data from the Ministry of Justice exhibits 1,379 grownup rape circumstances have been caught within the courtroom backlog within the final quarter of 2021 however the quantity surged to 2,786 within the final quarter of 2023.

A victim-support charity warned that courtroom delays imply rape victims are being made “to live indefinitely” with “uncertainty and anguish”.

The variety of grownup rape circumstances caught within the logjam has elevated by nearly 5 instances in simply over half a decade – up from 568 circumstances within the first quarter of 2019.

Experts blamed the courtroom backlog on a “chronic” scarcity of attorneys specialising in severe sexual offences, in addition to points relationship again to the Covid pandemic.

They warned rape victims are being knowledgeable their case has been postponed on the eleventh hour – generally arriving at courtroom solely to be turned away.

Government information exhibits nearly two in ten grownup rape circumstances have been rearranged on the day of the trial between October and December final yr.

The variety of rape and severe sexual offences trials adjourned due to an absence of prosecution or defence barrister has surged greater than tenfold since 2019.

Shabana Mahmood, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, mentioned: “It is a stain on this government’s record that the victims of these awful crimes are waiting so long to see justice done.

“Thanks to 14 years of Tory chaos, we’re seeing report delays within the courts and 60 per cent of rape victims are dropping out. For too many, justice delayed has develop into justice denied. Labour would be the authorities that modifications this.”

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, said the charity is witnessing “many horrifying stories of delays” for rape victims.

“In one case, the trial was delayed again for another year and in the meantime, the defendant died,” she said.

“In another case where the trial was due to commence in October 2023, it was adjourned until June 2025. The impact on women who have been waiting so long is devastating and we are aware of at least one attempted suicide.”

Ms Wistrich, an award-winning human rights lawyer, warned the chronic underfunding and “extremely low rates of pay” for legal aid work means there is a “massive shortage of lawyers willing to either prosecute or defend such cases”, adding that this could be helped by government funding.

The unacceptable shortage of appropriate legal representatives has a devastating impact on victims and survivors, who are forced to live – indefinitely – with all the uncertainty and anguish that court delays create.

Ciara Bergman

Research by the Criminal Bar Association found that the number of adult rape cases concluded in 2023 was 30 per cent lower than the number of new cases started. By contrast, in 2016 the number of cases finished was four per cent higher than the number of new cases.

Data from the Ministry of Justice shows the court backlog for adult rape cases grew by 730 cases in 2023 – a 36 per cent growth, which was a higher rise than that seen for any other offence.

Ciara Bergman, chief executive for Rape Crisis England and Wales, said: “The unacceptable shortage of appropriate legal representatives has a devastating impact on victims and survivors, who are forced to live – indefinitely – with all the uncertainty and anguish that court delays create.”

She called for a government strategy to retain barristers, adding: “Coming forward, naming what has happened to you, and placing trust in the criminal justice system takes enormous courage, and yet survivors are routinely and overwhelmingly let down.”

Research by the Criminal Bar Association, which surveyed 780 criminal barristers, found almost two-thirds of prosecutors said they will not be reapplying to be on the rape and serious sexual offences list.

The organisation’s latest figures show that cases with a bailed defendant take an average of 18 months to complete, 80 per cent longer than five years ago. Communications director James Rossiter said this is likely to become a two-year wait as trial dates are now routinely being given for summer 2026.

There is a continual scarcity of suitably certified prosecutors to deal with rape and severe sexual offence circumstances which has worsened considerably within the final 18 months.

James Rossiter

He mentioned: “There is a chronic shortage of suitably qualified prosecutors to handle rape and serious sexual offence cases which has worsened significantly in the last 18 months.

“The overall pool of around 2,400 specialist criminal barristers is around a fifth smaller than seven years ago and that has had a huge impact on those few left who specialise in sexual offence cases.”

He mentioned the federal government’s Rape Review Action Plan put ahead “laudable targets” to extend the variety of rape circumstances coming to courtroom again to 2016 ranges however that the evaluation failed to incorporate any goal for a way lengthy it might take for circumstances to conclude.

The Ministry of Justice mentioned it was unable to remark because of the pre-election interval.