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Rape victims face a postcode lottery where the chances of their case being shelved are almost twice as likely as the trial going ahead in some courts.

The backlog of trials has more than doubled in two years, with some victims left suicidal as they face waits of up to five years or more for justice.

Campaigners fear attackers are being left free to claim new victims as analysis by the Criminal Bar Association revealed some courts are delaying more sex offence trials than are going ahead.

The Midlands has emerged as the worst region in the country with 56 per cent of trials failing to start on their scheduled date – the national average is 44 per cent.

Ministry of Justice data shows there were 24 per cent more trials delayed between July and September 2021, with 211 ‘ineffective’ and ‘date vacated’ trials compared to 169 cases which concluded.

As a result, the backlog of sex offences trials in the Midlands has more than doubled in the last two years to 1,282 in the latest quarter (July to September) compared to 634 in the same period in 2019.

Rape victims face a postcode lottery where the chances of their case being shelved are almost twice as likely as the trial going ahead in some courts. The backlog of trials has more than doubled in two years, with some victims left suicidal as they face waits of up to five years or more for justice (stock image)

Rape victims face a postcode lottery where the chances of their case being shelved are almost twice as likely as the trial going ahead in some courts. The backlog of trials has more than doubled in two years, with some victims left suicidal as they face waits of up to five years or more for justice (stock image)

Rape victims face a postcode lottery where the chances of their case being shelved are almost twice as likely as the trial going ahead in some courts. The backlog of trials has more than doubled in two years, with some victims left suicidal as they face waits of up to five years or more for justice (stock image)

That is more than the current backlog of 944 sex cases in London and 268 in Wales put together. Nationally, there were over 6,400 outstanding sexual offence trials across England and Wales as of 30 September 2021. 

Lincoln Crown Court is one of the worst affected, with 13 cases being delayed in the latest quarter period compared to just seven which concluded.

At Nottingham Crown Court, one of the largest in the region, more than half of trials were delayed last year and just nine cases went ahead. More than three times as many (32) were shelved in the first three months of 2021. 

Birmingham Crown Court saw 41 sex trials conclude in 2021, compared to 86 cases being put back. 

The problem is often a lack of specialist rape and sexual assault prosecutors, while diminishing legal aid pay means lawyers are often not willing to travel. There are also shortages of judges and defence lawyers following large numbers leaving the Bar during the Covid pandemic.

In one recent case, a rape victim attacked when she was under ten years old said the delays to her case had left her suicidal. She reported it in 2017 but her case is scheduled to go to trial later this month. After it was delayed three times, the court was told the ‘complainant says she wants to withdraw as the stress is too much and she is suicidal’.

Jo Sidhu QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ¿Five years or more for a rape complainant to see a trial conclude is rapidly becoming the norm not the exception... in a system starved of criminal barristers not just to defend but also to prosecute and provide the judges needed to tackle record backlogs and delays.¿

Jo Sidhu QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ¿Five years or more for a rape complainant to see a trial conclude is rapidly becoming the norm not the exception... in a system starved of criminal barristers not just to defend but also to prosecute and provide the judges needed to tackle record backlogs and delays.¿

Jo Sidhu QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘Five years or more for a rape complainant to see a trial conclude is rapidly becoming the norm not the exception… in a system starved of criminal barristers not just to defend but also to prosecute and provide the judges needed to tackle record backlogs and delays.’

In another disturbing case, two alleged rapists have had their trials adjourned four times while on bail.

Jo Sidhu QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘Five years or more for a rape complainant to see a trial conclude is rapidly becoming the norm not the exception… in a system starved of criminal barristers not just to defend but also to prosecute and provide the judges needed to tackle record backlogs and delays.’

The Ministry of Justice said yesterday a £1billion investment will boost court capacity and accelerate post-Covid recovery. A spokesman added: ‘The pandemic has created unprecedented issues for the criminal justice system.’

Six-year delay left me broken 

A rape victim has described being left ‘broken’ by a six-year delay in her case which went on ‘longer than the Second World War’.

She went to police in September 2015 to report that a family member had abused her as a child. Her alleged abuser was arrested in January 2016 after a second woman came forward. Charges weren’t brought until 2020.

Covid led to the five-day trial being delayed until the woman dropped out in October, saying she felt ‘broken’ by the experience. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offered no evidence in her case and the defendant was acquitted.

She told the CPS she ‘felt betrayed and not believed by the police’, adding: ‘I don’t feel able to deal with people suggesting I am lying.’

The prosecutor told the court: ‘The time it has taken for this case to come to trial has been longer than the entire Second World War in Europe.’

Following the case, the prosecutor, speaking anonymously, said: ‘At the CPS, we have too few people doing too much and they just can’t cope.’

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Source: Daily Mail

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