Many crime victims, including women who have been raped, think it is “too much hassle” to report offences committed against them, the Justice Secretary warned on Tuesday as he vowed to overhaul a failing system.
Robert Buckland said it involved a “bewildering” process to report a crime and see it through to conviction and that many victims decided not to bother as a result.
He said that was allowing offenders guilty of “horrific” crimes to escape justice and that a major overhaul was needed to ensure that the “bravery” of rape victims and others who went to the police for help was rewarded with more convictions.
Mr Buckland’s pledge came during a speech in London in which he also promised a further expansion of the Government’s prison building programme and a new strategy for tackling drugs behind bars.
He also announced the introduction of new “trauma-based” methods for tackling the root causes of female offending and a scheme to assist freed convicts at risk of homelessness. He said the aim of these and other planned rehabilitation reforms was to improve their chances of rejoining society successfully.
But his most stark comments were on the failings of the justice system. They come in the wake of figures showing that the proportion of all crimes ending in a prosecution has fallen to well under 10 per cent with an even tinier percentage of rape offences ending in a conviction.
Mr Buckland said the “steep and deeply troubling decline in the number of charges, ,prosecutions,and convictions” was a particular concern but that problems blighted other cases too.
“The process of reporting a crime and seeing it through to conviction is so often bewildering,” he said, warning that this compounding the “trauma” faced by victims of all types.
“So difficult has it become that too many people in our country feel that it is more hassle than it is worth. To avoid compounding their trauma, they would rather sacrifice the justice to which they are entitled.”
Mr Buckland added that “in 57 per cent of all adult rape cases the victim feels unable to pursue the case” and that he had already apologised for this when publishing a recent plan for overhauling rape cases.
He said this would include putting the “attacker’s behaviour at the forefront of the investigation” rather than focusing on the conduct of a rape complainant. Mr Buckland said the aim was to return rape prosecution levels to those of five years, before the recent steep fall in cases going to court.
He added: “We are determined to restore faith in the system — to reshape it so that it is better able to punish these horrific crimes and to deliver the justice that victims so need and deserve.”