Child sexual abuse prosecutions fall by around half in four years

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prosecutions for child sexual abuse have dropped by around a half in four years, Research by the NSPCC suggests.

The children's charity used the Freedom of Information act to show the total number of proescutions in England and Wales fell from 6,394 in 2016/17 to 3,025 in 2020/21.

In the same period the number of convictions fell from 4,751 to 2,595.

Cases taking longer to resolve

Additional figures given to the charity showed cases were taking longer to resolve.

Ministry of Justice data showed the median number of days from offence to completion went from 526 in 2017/18 to 668 in 2020/21.

'Utterly unacceptable'

Anna Edmundson, NSPCC head of policy and public affairs, said: "Young victims of abuse have often lived through unimaginable trauma but many want to share their evidence with a court and prevent perpetrators from causing further harm.

"These figures show young witnesses are being denied this opportunity and those who do go to court experience long delays and inadequate support, which risks retraumatising them further.

"This is utterly unacceptable.

"We call on Dominic Raab to review and reverse the decline in prosecutions and convictions and use the Victims' Law to tackle the delays affecting child sexual abuse cases going through court, and provide much better support for young witnesses and victims."

NSPCC lays out plans

The NSPCC has said it wants increased use of specialist sexual violence advisers who are trained to work with children, of special measures such as pre-recording evidence for court, and of intermediaries to help children while giving evidence.

It has called for a guaranteed share of the £477m received by the Ministry of Justice in the Spending Review to tackle the backlog of child sexual abuse cases.

It has also requested that a proportion of the £185m funding for Independent Sexual Violence Advisers pays for "a significant number" who are trained to work with children.

The NSPCC has also said it wants a boost in funding for child houses, where a number of specialist workers such as police officers and social services staff are based.

Child sexual abuse cases rise by 22%

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said: "Child sexual abuse cases are some of our most challenging, complex and sensitive cases. They are dealt with by specially trained prosecutors working closely with the police to build the strongest possible cases that meet our legal test.

"The number of these cases prosecuted has increased by 22% in the past year, with most resulting in a conviction.

"We recognise, however, there is more work to do to increase the number of cases going to court. The CPS is working collaboratively with partners across government to address challenges that arise from when an allegation is made to prosecution."

The CPS said it prosecuted 4,347 individuals for child sexual abuse offences between July 2020 and June 2021, with an 84.2% conviction rate.

There were 3,556 completed prosecutions between July 2019 and June 2020, with an 84.4% conviction rate.

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