The Memo: Why do 70% of rape victims drop their cases?

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Why do 70% of rape victims drop their cases?

Chelsey Stanborough – 3 July 2023

According to the Office of National Statistics, sexual offence numbers rose to 193,566 in March last year, the highest on record. What’s more, as these cases rise, Ministry of Justice figures show that the number of outstanding rape cases waiting for trial has tripled over four years. In fact, confidence in the justice system is so low, that almost 70% of rape victims are thought to drop their cases entirely.

Ellie Reeves, the shadow justice minister has highlighted that with cases delayed for several years, perpetrators are being left to walk free, leaving victims “powerless and traumatised.” So, what’s causing it? Low conviction rates and fears of reliving the trauma of the crime in court have both been identified as significant factors. At the end of last year, the government’s Rape Review Action Plan was put forward in an attempt to find a solution. Since its introduction, the plan has introduced a 24/7 rape and sexual abuse helpline, enabled the prerecording of evidence in court instead of speaking in a live trial, and introduced new policing measures directed towards suspect behaviour. The plan has also increased funding to £192 million a year by 2025. Besides all of these, the government added that it will continue to review the progress every year.

This topic has continued to spark debate inside parliamentary walls. Opposition parties have continued to put pressure on the Conservative government to address the drop in victims continuing their cases. The Labour party has again reiterated their plans for opening specialist rape courts, something they claim is part of a broader move to make the crime a priority and double staff numbers. The current government’s Rape Review Action plan will continue to be monitored to give new policies time to work, but as tensions rise between parties, so does the number of victims dropping out of investigations.