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Record number of people – including 43 per cent of rape victims – pulling out of cases

"It’s clear that this trajectory is no good for anyone and this cannot carry on – we must get to the bottom of this," says Commissioner.

On 13 May, the Home Office released crime outcomes data for the period April 2020 to December 2020.

These reveal that the proportion of victims dropping out of prosecutions has significantly increased over five years – more than doubling across certain crime types.

For the nine months to December 2020, the proportion of victims who did not support action was 27% for all offences (892,428). These figures follow a trend seen in the last five years: between 1 and 4 percentage point increase each year from 2015/16 to 2019/20.

The comparable rate was 45% for violence against the person offences, 43% for rape offences, 34% for sexual offences. There have been small increases (+1-2 percentage points) across two of these three offence types compared with 2019/20, while violence against the person offences remain at the same level (45%).

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:

“This data is very concerning and shows a clear trend upwards, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s clear that this cannot be attributed to simply a Covid ‘blip’ – these are long term trends, which go back as far as 2014. This is across the board, too: rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, burglaries – all up, every year up.

“This raises a lot of questions. Why are we seeing such high levels of victim attrition? Is there a sense of no action from the police? Is there a sense that the CPS won’t charge? We don’t have the granularity of data to be sure. But it’s clear that this trajectory is no good for anyone and this cannot carry on – we must get to the bottom of this.

“It’s crucial we get the data if we are to turn this around. Because victims dropping out of the criminal justice system is a problem for all of us. It means victims losing faith in the criminal justice system, which means fewer victims and survivors reporting, which results in fewer prosecutions and, potentially, more criminals and serial offenders on our streets.

“The Royal Commission on criminal justice was announced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019 to review and improve efficiency in the criminal justice system. We have yet to see the terms of reference for this. It’s clear that victim attrition should be a key part of its consideration.”

Editors’ Notes:

  • We focused on one outcome type: evidential difficulties (the victim does not support action). This comprises two crime outcomes: Outcome 14 – ‘Evidential difficulties – named suspect not identified but the victim declines or is unable to support further police action to identify the offender’ – and Outcome 16 – ‘Evidential difficulties victim based – named suspect identified – the victim does not support (or withdraws support from) police action. (See the Home Office Crime outcomes in England and Wales: Technical Annex for more details about these outcomes).