Sexual offence cases delayed for record lengths in England and Wales

Article by Fair Trials

New figures confirm that victims and defendants are being denied justice by trial backlogs stretching far into 2024 and beyond.

Data compiled by the BBC found that serious sexual offences are taking the longest time on record to go through Crown Courts in England and Wales. They found that:

  • The average case length for sexual offences was 266 days, or about nine months
  • The longest period for sexual offence cases was in Leicester, which took 453 days (about 15 months) on average to go through the Crown Court
  • Plymouth had the shortest wait for sexual offence cases to be completed, with an average of 76 days (about two and a half months) – meaning there is over a year’s difference between the two courts

These delays come as no surprise and are certainly not limited to sexual offence cases. Through decades of cuts and neglect of the criminal justice system, and in particular, its courts, the Government has created a catastrophic criminal cases backlog with devastating impact on victims and defendants alike.

Excessive digital trawls of people’s devices, common practice in sexual offence cases, further delay and obstruct justice. Cases are delayed for so long that victims give up their pursuit of justice, whilst defendants face years locked up in prison awaiting trial.

Figures obtained by Fair Trials in February 2022 showed a 15% yearly increase in the number of people being held for longer than the custody time limit of six months. In December 2021, there were 4,185 people being held for longer than six months, with more than half of them held for non-violent offences. These delays deny justice for everyone involved, including accused people and victims.