Rape Prosecutions Dropped By Half During UK Pandemic Due to Court Backlog

In February 2020, I was sexually assaulted by a senior Emirati royal whilst working abroad for the Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi. With Foreign Office assistance, I was able to leave the UAE and arrived home to report the assault to the Metropolitan Police as the UK shuttered into lockdown. In the long and lonely months that followed, I gained a first-hand understanding of the challenges that many victims of sexual violence will have faced during the pandemic, not only dealing with the trauma of their attack but also the lengthy fight to obtain justice. Figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) show that crimes against women and girls in England and Wales increased during the pandemic and yet prosecutions plummeted, in-part due to a backlog in the court system exacerbated by the UK-wide shutdown and subsequent social distancing measures. The number of completed rape prosecutions more than halved, falling to 218 in the three months to June 2020 compared with 480 in the previous quarter. This delay not only gives perpetrators precisely what they count on to continue their crimes with impunity but also loads victims with a secondary trauma of shame and isolation whilst they wait for justice to be served. More worrying still, is that there were just 174 convictions resulting from those 218 prosecutions, a record rate of 80%, down from 341 (71%) in the previous quarter. It is deeply concerning that this backlog in magistrates and crown courts will disproportionately hit victims of sexual violence, at a time when the pandemic will have already affected how they can report the violence and access medical help and support safely.




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