Nexus Comment: Holistic View of Justice System Required To Reduce Delays in the Justice System for Victims of Sexual Abuse

Nexus Comment

Holistic View of Justice System Required To Reduce Delays in the Justice System for Victims of Sexual Abuse

Responding to the PPS call for intervention to reduce delays in the justice system for victims, Joanne Barnes, Nexus CEO, said:

“I welcome this most recent intervention by the PPS and support its call for more resources to make sure people impacted by sexual abuse and abusive relationships can access timely justice.

“However, to substantially reduce delay, the investment required will be much more than £7 Million per year, as other integral parts of the Justice System require changes and additional resource.

“Unfortunately, day and daily, we hear about the impact delays in the judicial process have on people who have experienced these crimes. We also witness the devastating impact of the low number of reported rapes that actually meet the test for prosecution (in 22/23, 76 out of 684 (11%) files received – PPS) and the conviction rate thereafter – of the 97 defendants dealt with at Crown Court for rape offences, only 27 were convicted of at least one sexual offence including rape, less than 1 in 3 in 22/23.

“All this while facing challenges during the process, such as rape myths and stereotypes, accessing independent legal support and disclosure of counselling notes. These, and many other challenges, have been outlined in the Gillen review (2019) alongside a significant number of recommendations to improve the system and the process. Yet today, less than 50% of Sir John Gillen’s recommendations have been implemented in full.

“What this tells us, is that despite efforts and commitments made to improve experience and outcomes for victims and survivors, there is significant work to be done.  While we have seen some legislative and support improvements, it is clear the system is significantly over-burdened with the level of resource available.  Therefore, we would welcome a year 5 review to be undertaken to fully assess progress against the Gillen Report and allow a full mapping of work yet to be completed, its current relevance and for appropriate levels of resource to be secured to complete this work.

“In many cases, delay, and other issues within the justice system, means that people impacted by sexual offences disengage with the process any time between reporting and during the court process. In fact, the attrition rate for sexual abuse cases is approximately 40% according to the PPS and PSNI. If we consider the 684 rape offence files received by the PPS in 22/23 it is likely that approximately 274 individuals may have disengaged from the process. Justice is part of the healing process, and this means that many people don’t see justice and are left without closure.

“I welcome the ‘upsurge’ in reports of sexual abuse and abusive relationships, this means more people now have the confidence to seek justice for these historically under-reported crimes, and we know that there will still be many more that never will report. It is worrying that the conviction rate in these cases remains low.

“The call for more funding is one we hear almost every day in Northern Ireland across many parts of society, and its unavoidable in this instance if we aspire to see justice for victims of sexual abuse. Additionally, it is important that we look holistically at the system rather than at one part, to achieve an end-to-end system that is fit for purpose for victims and survivors of sexual offences. ”


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