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Plans announced to tackle unacceptable backlog of rape cases waiting for trial in the Crown Courts

On Wednesday 6 March, Lord Justice Edis announced plans to prioritise rape cases that have been awaiting trial in the Crown Court’s backlog for over two years. Under the new plan, the longest-delayed rape cases will go to trial before the end of July 2024.

We have long been challenging the unacceptable backlog in the Crown Courts. One year ago, we launched our Breaking Point report which evidenced the huge distress and re-traumatisation of survivors as they wait in anticipation for justice, having hopes dashed by postponements and delays.

We are pleased our calls for priority listing and resourcing for rape and sexual offence cases in the backlog have been heard. However, we maintain that there are a wide range of issues contributing to the backlog that must be addressed - not least the shortage of criminal and prosecuting barristers and Judges.

Ciara Bergman, CEO of Rape Crisis England & Wales said:

“For years, survivors of sexual violence and abuse have faced unacceptable delays and postponements in their cases reaching courts and proceeding to rape and sexual offence trials. These delays mean that survivors' lives, and the process of recovery from their awful experiences, is in many cases on hold for months and years. Others simply give up and drop their cases… We welcome efforts to make the process less traumatic and are pleased to see that those rape cases which have been languishing in the backlog are now going to be listed as a priority.”

We hope these efforts mark a turning point in how rape cases are prioritised and resourced in the future.