New data from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) shows delays to criminal trials have increased by 55% in the past five years and this is also impacting child sexual abuse trials. As a result the NSPCC are asking the Government to amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill.
The average number of days between a defendant in a child sexual abuse case being charged and the criminal trial commencing increased by 55% in the last five years.
A coalition of leading children’s charities are calling on the Government to amend the Victims and Prisoners Bill to create a “child-centred, sufficiently resourced and accountable justice system”.
The NSPCC along with Barnardo’s, Action for Children, The Children’s Society and the National Youth Advocacy Service, have stated their commitment to protecting children and strengthening the criminal justice response.
The Bill’s second reading in the House of Lords took place on Monday 18th December 2023.
The NSPCC is asking the Government to overhaul the criminal justice system, as well as provide significant investment to address the current court backlogs, as well as fast-track cases involving young witnesses and victims.
Clare Kelly, Associate Head of Policy and Policy Affairs at the NSPCC, said:
“Going through the criminal justice system can be a painful process for children who have experienced abuse. This can be made worse by consistent delays which leave children in limbo, without access to support designed for them to support their recovery.
Year on year we see court waiting times increase as the courts continue to battle a backlog of child sexual abuse cases. This has been a problem well before the pandemic but has been exacerbated by various lockdowns and court closures over the last five years.
The Government have said they are committed to supporting victims of child sexual abuse but they must follow through by taking action on these long, distressing court waiting times.
This could be achieved partly through the Victims and Prisoners Bill by enshrining a commitment to upholding children’s rights as victims as they go through the courts.
However, to turn this deteriorating situation around, the Government must also invest in the criminal justice system to ensure these cases are progressed by police and prosecutors, young witnesses have support to give their evidence and their cases are heard by courts as speedily and effectively as possible.”
Victims and Prisoners Bill
The second reading of the Bill (the general debate on all aspects of the bill) took place on 18 December 2023, and the Committee stage (line by line examination of the bill) is scheduled for 24 January.
The Victims and Prisoners Bill is to make provision about victims of criminal conduct and others affected by criminal conduct; about the appointment and functions of advocates for victims of major incidents; about the release of prisoners; about the membership and functions of the Parole Board; to prohibit certain prisoners from forming a marriage or civil partnership; and for connected purposes.