The number of rapes and sexual offences recorded in England and Wales hit a record high in 2021
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The average rape case now takes over 1,000 days to complete, new data shows

The new figures also revealed that 576 rape cases had been waiting for over a year to go to court at the end of September 2021, well over double the average of the previous five years.

The typical amount of time between a rape offence and the completion of the resulting criminal case rose above 1,000 days for the first time in 2021, new data has revealed.

The figure, which was published in response to parliamentary questions from the shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry, found that the median time between offence and completion in rape cases was 1,020 days in the first nine months of 2021. That’s equivalent to over two and a half years – and represents a 25% rise compared to the previous year.

Extreme delays in a number of outlying cases made the overall average wait even longer, with the mean time between offence and completion reaching 2,767 days in the first nine months of 2021 – the equivalent of more than seven and a half years.  

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Reacting to the new figures, Thornberry described the delays as “sickening and unacceptable”.

“These figures show that waits of more than 1,000 days have become the norm for survivors of rape,” she said. “Every day of delay puts trials at risk, threatening to rob survivors of the justice they deserve, and prolonging the trauma they are made to endure.”

She continued: “Any government with an ounce of compassion would set about fixing these record delays as a priority, not letting them grow worse by the year.”

The data also shed light on delays within the court system, with figures showing that 576 rape cases had been waiting for more than a year to come to court at the end of September 2021, well over double the average of the previous five years. 

These new figures come just days after government data revealed that the rape prosecution rate has fallen again, with only 1.3% of rapes now being prosecuted.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics also released last week showed that police forces recorded the highest ever number of rapes and sexual offences last year, with 63,136 rapes recorded in the year to September, up 13% from the previous period.

The figures cover the months after the kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021, with the ONS suggesting that the latest figures may reflect a “number of factors”, including the “impact of high-profile incidents, media coverage and campaigns on people’s willingness to report incidents to the police, as well as a potential increase in the number of victims”. 

Commenting on the findings Dame Vera Baird QC, said: “There is no escaping the numbers: record highs in reported rapes and sexual assaults and charging rates so low as to be barely discernible. This is of grave concern and a depressingly familiar story.

“Much as we hope each year to finally witness the green shoots of a recovery, we are once again faced with the crushing reality that the criminal justice system is continuing to fail rape victims in ever-increasing numbers.”

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She continued: “Alarming statistics today reveal that 41% of rape victims are withdrawing their support for action. Worse still, almost a third are backing out within the first three months of the offence being recorded. For so many victims to have built up the immense courage to report only to withdraw within a matter of weeks is deeply worrying and suggests the situation is worsening, some seven months after the government’s Rape Review promised to set things straight.

“I remain very concerned that few victims will stay the course. Rape victims are being subjected to endless, endemic delays. Of the dismally few who secure a charging decision in their case, almost a quarter face delays of more than a year. We know that the stress and uncertainty is driving many to drop their claims altogether.

“The nationwide roll-out of pre-recorded evidence and cross-examination in rape cases (Section 28) has been promised – and it will make a difference. But it must now be implemented in weeks and months, not years.”

If you have experienced sexual abuse of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.

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