The piece below, by Dame Vera Baird, appeared in The Daily Express on Friday 21st February
It is so important victims have faith in our criminal justice system. To achieve this, they must be confident crimes will be investigated and prosecuted and that the courts will deliver speedy justice.
If the only contact you have with the police is a burglary and you see no further action being taken, how can you feel that the justice system is there to protect you and your family?
And why would you report any crime you witness or experience again? And will you support the police if they need you?
Burglary can be deeply intrusive. It can leave people feeling unsafe in their own homes. Many victims on low incomes cannot afford insurance and struggle to replace whatever TV, phone and possessions have been stolen – and they seem increasingly unlikely ever to get court compensation.
The increase in the number of victims who decline to support a prosecution is of greatest concern. In the past four years, we have seen the percentage of investigations closed as a result of victims deciding not to support police investigations growing from 8.7% cent to 22.9 %. At the same time, the percentage of crimes resulting in a prosecution is down from 15.5% per cent to 7.3%.
These are not just numbers. Each crime will have a victim, someone whose life has been has been affected. And the figures are all the more worrying when we see that the most intimate and damaging crimes, such as sexual offences, have the biggest drop in prosecutions
We need to remember men who rape are likely to carry on unless they are stopped. So, confidence to support a prosecution is vital for public safety. But when reports are made, fewer than 2% of victims even see their perpetrator charged
The criminal justice system cannot afford a “flight” by victims and this may be what we are beginning to see. Only last week, HMICFRS inspectors expressed concerned that the public had given up on the police solving crimes and that the failure of the police to investigate high-volume crimes like car thefts, minor assaults and burglaries was having a “corrosive” effect on the public’s trust in the police.
Delay and waiting for months to get any information about what is happening mean many people give up hope of getting justice and decide to get on with their lives. The result is criminals being let of the hook and free to offend again.
There are plans to recruit 20,000 more police and this is welcome. But on its own, it is not enough.
We know the government plans to set up a Royal Commission to look at the operation of the justice system. I believe the number one priority must be to look at how we build public confidence. This means, solving more crime, getting more offenders into court and to overhaul how we treat victims and witnesses so that they have faith in justice.