Amy,* a survivor of child sexual abuse, described her wait for trial as a “never-ending nightmare”:
“I just feel so upset that I have to wait this long for justice and an outcome. I feel like I can’t move forward from this; it’s just horrible."
Charlotte* said she felt “failed” after her court date was postponed multiple times:
“It’s so painful to feel so stuck somewhere yet hopeless; as hopeless as when these crimes took place and no one listened or helped me then. No power or control over the choices that had been made for me.”
As a result, many survivors end up withdrawing from the criminal justice process altogether.
*Names have been changed.
Why is it happening?
2,591 rape cases are currently waiting to go to court – a record high.
And this number has increased by 38% compared to the same time last year.
There are several reasons why the number of cases waiting to go to court has grown so high. These include:
- A shortage of solicitors, barristers and judges – a problem largely caused by low pay and poor working conditions for criminal solicitors and barristers.
- Court dates being routinely postponed because of scheduling issues.
- No pandemic plans in place when Covid-19 struck.
- Funding cuts made as part of austerity measures.
We raised our concern about the number of cases sitting in what is known as the Crown Court 'backlog' back in March. Since then, however, the situation has only got worse.
- Go to the website WriteToThem and enter your postcode.
- Scroll to find your MP's name and click on it.
- Fill out the email form and hit 'Preview and send'. We have an email template you can use below – but, if you're able to put it in your own words, even better! MPs pay much more attention to individualised letters.
- Preview your email and then hit 'I'm happy, send it'.
- You will then get an email asking you to confirm your email address.
⚠️ Please note that your email won't be sent if you don't do this step.
Our email template
Dear [MP'S NAME],
As your constituent, I am writing to you today as I am concerned about the unacceptably high number of rape and sexual offence cases in the Crown Court's backlog.
Latest government data shows that 9,792 sexual offence cases are waiting to go to court. This is a 23% increase compared to the number waiting this time last year. 9,792 cases in the backlog is more than a shocking statistic; it represents 9,792 survivors being failed by a system as they bravely try to regain control of their lives. This cannot continue.
Survivors of rape and sexual abuse deserve more. The system should be fit for purpose.
Victims and survivors of some of the most traumatic crimes imaginable are being made to wait years for their cases to reach court, having court dates postponed – often multiple times – and being kept in the dark about important updates.
Despite the severity of these cases, they are some of the longest to progress, with many taking well over two years to complete in court.
The backlog continues to rise for adult rape and sexual offence cases. The main reason for this is the underfunding of the criminal legal profession, which has led to shortages of barristers and judges.
These delays are having a devastating impact on victims and survivors, leading to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing. Heartbreakingly, some survivors are so re-traumatised by the system that they have attempted to end their lives as a result.
Unacceptably long wait times have catastrophic impacts on confidence in the criminal justice system, leading to some victims and survivors ultimately withdrawing from the criminal justice process.
As one survivor of child rape and sexual abuse shared, “For the process to take eight years ... truly anyone with any kind of humane understanding would appreciate [that] this is not acceptable? And who is checking on this case? ... Why did it truly take this long?”.
The process doesn’t have to be like this. Change is possible.
We know there are significant challenges in addressing this systemic issue, but we also believe that there are clear solutions.
I am supporting Rape Crisis England & Wales’s call for judge-only trials to be urgently consulted on and piloted as an emergency measure in areas that have the highest number of rape and sexual offence cases in the backlog and the slowest progression. There is precedent for this, given the developments in Scotland and other jurisdictions.
The recently announced Criminal Justice Bill could be an ideal vehicle to consider in terms of legislating for such a pilot.
Will you show your support for survivors of sexual violence?
I am asking you to:
➡️ Call on the Government to immediately address the growing backlog of rape and sexual offence cases in the Crown Court.
➡️ Read this report by Rape Crisis England & Wales, which details how the backlog is at ‘Breaking Point’.
➡️ Get in touch with Rape Crisis England & Wales at email@example.com.
[INSERT YOUR NAME]