Thousands of rape victims have been waiting in limbo since 2020

Following the news that it took police two years after receiving the complaint to arrest a Tory MP on suspicion of rape, we reveal how thousands of other alleged victims of 2020 are still awaiting a ruling on their case.

When news broke earlier this month that an MP had been arrested on suspicion of rape, it wasn’t just the grim prospect that an elected representative could be a sex offender that surprised and alarmed people – but also the length of time in which officials had examined the report.

The alleged attack was first reported to London’s Metropolitan Police in January 2020, the force said at the time of the arrest – somewhere between 836 and 866 days earlier, or around two years and 15 to 19 weeks ago.

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“I understand investigations may take time, but the person who accused this MP of rape did so in January 2020,” a health communications worker tweeted. “That’s almost 2.5 years of putting her life on hold awaiting a police decision. That must be mental torture.”

“A somber detail about the MPs’ arrest for rape is that allegations were reportedly first made in January 2020,” author and columnist Gaby Hinsliff tweeted. “Almost two and a half years to get to this (quite early) stage of the process and that’s not even unusual.”

An analysis of NationalWorld of Home Office Crime Outcome figures shows that, in fact, it is far from unusual for rape suspects to have to deal with such long waits — in fact, it’s commonplace.

If you reported a rape in England and Wales in 2020, there is a one in eight chance that at the end of January 2022 you were still awaiting either the police or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to make a decision on whether to charge will be charged .

The database shows that 6,816 rape offenses were registered for the first time in 2020, for which no outcome was assigned at that time.

That was 12.5% ​​of all rapes recorded in 2020.

“No outcome assigned” means that the police, in cooperation with the CPS, had neither decided to press charges nor to close the case with an unsuccessful outcome – leaving the victims in limbo.

Of the outstanding 2020 cases, 1,476 were recorded between January and March, meaning victims had waited at least 22 months when the Home Office took its last snapshot of the results sometime after January 2022 — and possibly even longer.

Which forces take the longest to make decisions?

The Met was responsible for 1,035 of the outstanding rape cases, the highest number of any police force in England and Wales and 15% of the national total.

But when it comes to the proportion of offenses recorded, Staffordshire Police fared the worst, with a staggering 41% of cases (389 out of 942) remaining open awaiting a result

They were followed by Wiltshire Police (180 out of 554 or 33%) and Northumbria Police (363 out of 1,441 or 25%).

Essex Police, at the other end of the scale, had closed 98% of cases with just 2% remaining open – despite having a poor record of bringing charges to these closed cases.

Staffordshire also had the worst charge rate of any armed force (excluding the City of London’s small police force), with just 0.8% of rape reports in 2020 (eight out of 942 cases, including those still open) resulting in a charge compared to the last Updated to a national average of 3%.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland the data are different and less detailed.

The Metropolitan Police told us that sex offenses are among the most complex offenses officers deal with, but that they are “absolutely committed to increasing the number of rape offenders brought to justice by strengthening our processes, investigations and.” improved victim support”.

Issues that are driving up rape charges are “not unique to the Met,” the force said, adding that if it’s going to start really changing outcomes for victims, “we need to change our approach, too.” .

The Met is investing £11m in digital forensics and holding interagency panels to review rape investigations, the spokesman said.

While Staffordshire Police had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication, a spokesperson suggested refuting the accuracy of figures which are provided to the Home Office each month by police forces themselves, undergo quality assurance and are named “official statistics”.

How long does it take, on average, for the police to file charges?

Long waits have been a focus in recent months in efforts to improve the criminal justice system’s response to rape and sexual assault.

According to a rape list the government releases every three months, the average time that elapsed between when police recorded a rape and when a perpetrator was charged was 316 days (10.3 months) in July-September last year.

That was an improvement over the previous three months (415 days), but still well above 2019 levels (281 days).

Separate data from the CPS – which decides whether to bring charges after investigators refer a case to them – shows that in the first nine months of 2021/22 it took them an average of 159 days to charge a suspect after police gave them presented the case. four times longer than for crime overall (39 days).

That number has steadily deteriorated over the past three years. In the first nine months of 2019/20, the waiting time was 140 days.

Victims then also face lengthy delays in getting cases to court, in the tiny minority of rapes that do.

Why are long waiting times important?

Activists often argue that “justice delayed is justice denied” because of problems with evidence or because people’s memories deteriorate over time.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and Rape Crisis England and Wales agree that long delays are retraumatizing for victims.

Rape Crisis Chief Executive Officer Jayne Butler said the impact “should not be underestimated” as some victims have been known to experience flashbacks, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns and increased anxiety and stress.

“Many will inevitably drop out of the criminal process altogether,” she added.

Deniz Uğur, deputy director of EVAW, said long delays are “worse than their experience of sexual violence” for many survivors.

“The criminal justice system doesn’t bring justice to survivors, but worse, it harms women who report rape and sexual assault,” she said.

What do the authorities say?

NationalWorld contacted the Council of National Police Chiefs for comment. It didn’t respond.

A CPS spokesman acknowledged that the criminal justice system “can be an extremely difficult time for victims.”

“That’s why we’re working hard with our criminal justice partners to expedite things at every stage of these cases – without compromising on standards – so that we can provide justice and fairness to victims and suspects alike,” they continued.

“We want to build cases that are as strong as possible and it is important that these are thoroughly investigated, which may take time.

“An important part of streamlining our handling of complex cases is a focus on excellent file quality to reduce delays, and we are seeing encouraging progress in areas where this is a priority.

“We are also promoting the use of our early police advice, which will assist with proper investigation and establishing appropriate lines of inquiry from the outset.”

A Justice Department spokesman said: “In the last three months, the number of people convicted of rape has increased by 15% and the number of pending cases in the Crown Court is beginning to decrease, but we know there is still a long way to go to restore victims the speedy access to justice they deserve.

“That’s why we’re recruiting 1,000 more independent sexual and domestic violence counselors, launching a new 24/7 helpline for victims, piloting a new approach to police investigations, and rolling out pre-recorded cross-examinations across the country so rape victims can get justice and support.” that they need at every stage of the justice system.”

Have you been affected by long waits in the criminal justice system after reporting sexual violence? Contact [email protected] Thousands of rape victims have been waiting in limbo since 2020


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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