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Child Sexual Exploitation: Historical Cases

Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2024

2. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of the time taken to schedule court hearings for historical cases of child sexual exploitation on survivors and their families. (900795)

The House should be in no doubt as to how urgently we are working to accelerate justice. We will have recruited 1,000 new judges by the end of this year and extended the use of 24 Nightingale courtrooms, and we funded a record number of sitting days in courts last year. We have transformed how we support victims of sexual violence offences through the criminal justice system, including with the use of nearly 1,000 independent sexual violence advisers—some of those are especially for children—the nationwide roll-out of section 28 evidence procedures and pre-court familiarisation for vulnerable witnesses.

My constituent had to wait several years before her historical child sexual exploitation case was finally heard. During that time, the court date was cancelled twice, causing her immense distress. There is a backlog of about 65,000 Crown court cases—a third more there than in 2020—and nearly a third are waiting more than one year, compared with 10% in 2020. I appreciate what the Minister said about the additional barristers and judges recruited, but given the sensitive nature of these cases, could she indicate what percentage of the backlog is down to that and what she and her team are doing specifically to address it?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, who has raised this issue before. She will know that listing is a matter for the independent judiciary, but I do not seek to hide behind that. Actually, I would like to meet her to discuss the specific reasons for adjourning the case she talked about, because we might be able to do something to help.

I draw the hon. Lady’s attention to two important things. A new police taskforce set up by the Government to support historical child sex abuse investigations has led to a 20% increase in child sex charges in the past year alone. In addition to that, I will say this. Greater Manchester currently has 59 live investigations into child sexual abuse. These are complex cases involving multiple perpetrators and multiple victims. In one case that recently went all the way through the court, the perpetrators did not even know each other—they had never met—so even the decision about how the group is arranged, how the case is allocated and the length of time it will need for listing is particularly complex. I would like to meet her, for the reasons I gave.