The Victims' Commissioner reacts to the latest Ministry of Justice Criminal Justice System (CJS) Delivery Data Dashboard.
Baroness Newlove: “Chronic delays, record backlogs, and high victim withdrawal rates paint a wider concerning picture. Rape cases are still taking far too long to progress through the courts”.
The latest iteration of the Ministry of Justice’s Criminal Justice System (CJS) Delivery Data Dashboard was published on Thursday 1 February: Home – CJS Dashboard (justice.gov.uk).
The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, said:
“I am encouraged to see further progress against the key metrics of the rape review, including increased police referrals, charges, and cases reaching the Crown Court over 2016 levels. This clearly marks a step in the right direction, and I remain cautiously optimistic.
“Even though I welcome this progress, it is important to acknowledge the modest ambitions of the rape review. Notably, reported cases of rape in 2023 now dwarf those of both 2016 and 2019 – the year the rape review was commissioned. Exceeding 2016 targets is an achievement, especially from the low point in 2019, but it is crucial we consider 2016 levels of charging as a baseline not to fall below, and not as a target to aspire to.
“Years on from the rape review, progress risks being undermined by systemic issues eroding victim confidence. Chronic delays, record backlogs, and high victim withdrawal rates paint a wider concerning picture. Rape cases are still taking far too long to progress through the courts, with yet another marked increase in the number of cases outstanding for over a year.
“No victim must be expected to wait years before their case gets to court.
“Too many victims are withdrawing from the criminal justice system before their case gets to court. A staggering 61% of police investigations were closed in the last quarter because the victim withdrew and 20% withdrew after the defendant had been charged. 21% of rape trials are postponed at the last minute, highlighting an overloaded courts system that fails to prioritise victims. Operation Soteria and other welcome initiatives stemming from the rape review cannot account for for a clogged-up courts system.
“The advances made by police and CPS are to be welcomed. We must build on this progress. But that all depends on an efficient courts and justice system. Unless we tackle the delays in our court system, we risk failing victims of rape and sexual assault once again.”
- The CJS data dashboard brings together data from CJS quarterly statistics, CPS, HMCTS and Police Recorded Crime as well as some unique data sets. The dashboard aims to show how the government is progressing on specific metric ambitions set out in the 2021 Rape Review, as well as providing additional data on timeliness, victim engagement and quality of service.
- The publication of the Rape Review in 2021 committed to improve the criminal justice system process for victims, and to return volumes of cases being referred by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS); charged by the CPS; and going to court, to at least 2016 levels.
- 2016 marked a key point in time where the system faltered: well-documented issues regarding the disclosure of evidence combined with strained relationships between criminal justice agencies, inconsistent support for victims, and ultimately a decline in the number of charges and prosecutions for rape cases.
- In the dashboard, the three Rape Review metrics (suspects referred to CPS for early advice/charging decision, suspects charged by the CPS, and cases going to Crown Court) continue to increase and have all exceeded 2016 and 2019 quarterly averages.
- However, it is important to view this in the context of the huge increase in police recorded rapes, which in July – September 2023 was 11,620, compared to the 2016 quarterly average of 6,270 and the 2019 quarterly average of 9,631.
- It is also important to note that there are wider issues in the system:
- The median number of days for police to charge an offender in July to September 2023 was 261 days.
- The mean number of days from charge to case completion at the Crown Court in July to September 2023 was 406 days.
- The number of cases outstanding for over a year in the Crown Court in July to September 2023 was 667, a further increase from 587 last quarter.
- In July to September 2023, over half (61%) of adult rape police investigations were closed because the victim did not support police action.
- In July to September 2023, a fifth (20%) adult rape cases were stopped after a defendant had been charged because a victim no longer supported the prosecution.
- In July to September 2023, over a fifth (21%) of adult rape cases were rearranged on the day of trial.
- Whilst timeliness of adult rape cases has improved this quarter, cases are still taking too long to progress through the courts and the number of adult rape cases outstanding for over a year continues to increase.
- Too many victims are withdrawing from the Criminal Justice System.
- Too many cases are being rearranged on the day of trial.
Head of Communications
Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales