According to latest violence against women and girls (VAWG) figures from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the number of completed rape prosecutions more than halved in the first quarter of this year, falling to 218 in the three months to June compared with 480 in the previous quarter.
There were 174 convictions resulting from those 218 prosecutions, down from 341 in the previous quarter.
Katie Russell, national spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales said:
"COVID-19 and the necessary related infection control measures have undoubtedly had a major impact on all agencies and services, and criminal justice is no different. In light of this, some drop in figures was inevitable.
It's important to remember, however, that completed rape prosecutions were already falling before March this year, and in fact that despite increased numbers of victims and survivors coming forward to report these serious crimes, criminal justice outcomes around sexual offences have been dropping now over a number of years.
We know the unacceptably long timescales involved with criminal justice for rape and other forms of sexual violence and abuse were already resulting in distress, re-traumatisation and even causing victims and survivors to withdraw from the process pre-pandemic.
With the extra delays caused by courts now running at lower capacity due to social distancing, it will inevitably become even harder for victims and survivors to stay engaged with the process.
At the same time, we know through our frontline work at Rape Crisis that many of those who are still processing the trauma of sexual violence and abuse have struggled with impacts such as sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, dissociative and obsessive compulsive disorders and many others, being exacerbated by the context of the pandemic and lockdown.
While the impacts of coronavirus on the criminal justice system are real and significant, we must remember that victims and survivors were being failed by that system long before the current pandemic, and its radical overhaul remains essential, urgent and overdue."