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Court Backlog: Sexual and Violent Crime Victims

Volume 715: debated on Tuesday 24 May 2022

21. What recent assessment he has made of the impact of the court backlog on the wellbeing of victims of (a) sexual and (b) violent offences. (900209)

We are taking action across all jurisdictions to bring backlogs down and improve waiting times for those who use our courts. I can confirm that the number of days taken for an adult rape case to progress from Crown Prosecution Service charge to completion has fallen by 38 days since the peak in June 2021. That is encouraging.

Under the leadership of Kim McGuinness, our police and crime commissioner, Northumbria police have invested heavily in victim support. But they cannot make up for the wholesale failure of the justice system, with victims telling us that they feel revictimised by the length of delays and the complexity of the process. Does the Minister acknowledge that his plan to get the backlog down to 53,000—still a huge number—will not significantly address the delays? What additional support is he putting in place for the mental health of victims during these long, long delays?

The hon. Lady asks about what supports are in place; I am grateful to hear from her police and crime commissioner about the role that independent sexual violence advisers are playing. I confirm that we are investing further in victim support services by increasing funding to £185 million by 2024-25.

I am coming to those. Of course we want to reduce delays as far as possible, but, to give a sense of the progress that we are making, I should say that in March there were 124,000 disposals in the magistrates courts and 9,280 in the Crown courts. Those are the highest figures for both since the pandemic. They show that output is increasing. That is why the backlog is now falling; we expect it to continue falling further.

The victims of modern-day slavery experience the worst of violence and sexual assault. One of the ways in which we can keep them engaged with the justice system is for there to be victim navigators, which the Government are piloting. If that approach could be spread further, more people would be kept in the court system and more of these evil gangs would be taken off our streets.

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. As he will know, this is primarily a matter for the Home Office, but the roll-out of section 28 will support those cases. As we have mentioned several times today, there is a significant increase in funding for ISVAs, who provide significant support for dealing with precisely such issues as attrition and for ensuring that victims are supported throughout the process.