The number of rape and sexual assault victims who waited more than a year for their trial to go through the courts has soared, according to a report.
The number of such cases rose from 246 to 1,316 – a 435 percent increase – between March 2020 and June of this year, according to figures from a National Audit Office report.
The Spending Supervisory Authority said the Crown Court backlog could remain a problem for years, severely affecting victims.
The government said the backlog in England and Wales is stabilizing.
In a highly critical report, said the National Audit Office (NAO) neither the Ministry of Justice nor its judicial agency were working together adequately to resolve the problems that had their roots in the pre-pandemic cuts.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC last week that he did not know when the backlog would drop below pre-pandemic levels.
As of June, it was at a record high of nearly 61,000 cases. NAO warns that there may still be significant delays in 2024.
The report says that keeping rape and sexual assault victims, witnesses and defendants waiting more than a year for their cases to be heard puts them at risk of collapse if people withdraw their support.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said prosecutions for rape and sexual assault “were going badly” and that “he would stop at nothing to get more rapists behind bars.”
Her comments came after Wayne Couzens’ incarceration for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Sarah Everard raised questions about women’s trust in the police and criminal justice system.
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Waiting times increased the most in London, with the average age of a case rising 63% from 164 days to 266 days, the report said.
NAO chief Gareth Davies said: “Despite efforts to increase the capacity of criminal courts, it seems likely that the backlog will remain an issue for many years.
“The impact on victims, witnesses and defendants is serious and it is essential that the Ministry of Justice works effectively with its partners in the criminal justice system to minimize delays to justice.”
The Crown Court’s capacity was increased by 30% between September 2020 and July 2021 by opening Nightingale Temporary Courts and modifying existing buildings.
And another nightingale court will open in a hotel in Warwick, bringing the total in England and Wales to 23.
But the long-term recovery plan is based on Treasury funding, the report says, with the Ministry of Justice estimating it needs around £ 500m more for criminal courts and £ 1.7bn more. for legal aid, prisons and probation services.
The Bar Council, which represents the lawyers, said the findings were alarming and show that criminal justice is “at a breaking point”.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said the report acknowledged the speed of the government’s response to Covid.
“This means that – within a few months – our buildings have been secured, remote technology has been implemented in all courts and the Nightingale courtrooms have opened up and down the country to increase the available space. for processes, “he said.
“We are already seeing the results, with the dropping of pending cases in the magistrate’s courts and the stabilization of arrears in the Crown Court.”
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