First justice scorecards show worsening court delays for rape cases

The move, designed to give victims greater confidence to come forward, were included in the Government’s rape review.

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

Court delays in rape cases have worsened this year, according to the first scorecards setting out where the criminal justice system is “failing to deliver for victims”.

The performance ratings – published for the first time on Thursday – show “we are yet to see positive impacts” on how rape cases are being handled, the Government said.

It took, on average, more than 15 months (457 days) from a suspect being charged for an adult rape case to be concluded in a crown court during April to June, data shows.

This is compared to 373 days in January to March, meaning the delays increased by nearly three months (84 days). In 2019 it was 301 days.

The speed at which the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) made a charging decision rose over the first six months of 2021 but in April to June still stood at 122 days (around four months) after receiving a referral from police. This is eight days longer than in 2019 (114 days).

The proportion of such cases which led to a charge fell from 4.1% in January to March to 3.6% in the following three months, but is still slightly higher than in 2019 (2.8%).

The backlog of adult rape cases waiting to be dealt with by crown courts was 1,309 in April to June – more than double the total for 2019 (621).

All the data contained in the scorecard – from the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the CPS – is already publicly available. The Government said it is collected in one place for the first time to make it more accessible and to provide future comparisons.

In a separate report, also published on Thursday, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the scorecards pinpoint “where the system is failing to deliver for victims”.

The six-month progress update on the Government’s first end-to-end rape review acknowledged the rape scorecards demonstrated “that we are yet to see positive impacts against key metrics in the system”.

It added: “That is not surprising: we are still in the implementation phase of the review, and we have been upfront that the culture change needed – across the criminal justice system – is significant.

“However, we expect this to improve incrementally as the delivery of actions progresses.”

Speaking in the Commons last month, Mr Raab said the scorecards would aim to improve the Government’s dismal record on rape, giving “victims the confidence to come forward and get prosecutions to court”.

Deniz Ugur, deputy director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said she was concerned about the way the data was presented.

She said: “Given that the purpose of these scorecards is to increase accountability and enable greater scrutiny of our justice agencies, we’re concerned and disappointed with the way in which the data was presented.

“The data contained comparisons with inconsistent baselines (2016 and 2019) and reporting periods (annual as well as quarterly data periods), and calls into question whether the data was presented in this way to distract from and obscure poor performance in charging, prosecution and convicting rape.

“It is critical for public accountability that such important data is presented transparently and clearly, with due consideration for accessibility, including the needs of disabled women and those with English as a second language.

“We urge Government to consult with expert women’s organisations and rethink their approach to the rape scorecards.”

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