1.5 million victims in England and Wales are choosing not to pursue their cases, what does this mean for the justice system?
According to recent figures published by the Home Office, 1.5 million victims of serious crimes decided not to pursue their cases after reporting them in the year up to March 2022. Of those, 900,000 were victims of violence, 95,000 victims of criminal damage, and over 75,000 victims of sexual violence. What’s more, 78.6% of those cases were closed despite having identified a suspect, prompting widespread concern.
But what exactly do these numbers mean? It’s no secret that cuts to legal aid have severely affected the wait time for cases to reach the court. According to the CPS’s Q4 release from 2021-2022, the wait time for case completion continues to increase (from 153 days to 170 days in cases of rape). It is a problem that has been recognised by the Crown Prosecution Service, with the acknowledgement that the process is, for some victims, as traumatic as the offence itself. In fact, the backdrop of barrister’s strikes and claims of underfunding and understaffing among police, the challenges facing every stage of the process have been laid bare.
According to Labour Leader and former Head of the Crown Prosecution Service Keir Starmer, faith in the criminal justice system is being ‘devastatingly’ undermined. A solution, critics suggest, requires a fund review and a drastic simplification of the process, above all, to ease the pressure that victims of these crimes currently face.