Record numbers of victims of crime including rape are withdrawing from prosecutions because of court delays and falling conviction rates.
Home Office figures released on Thursday reveal that the proportion of victims dropping out of prosecutions has trebled from 8.7 per cent to 26.4 per cent since 2015 - a total of some 1.3 million cases.
For rape it has increased at a similar rate with 44.3 per cent of victims now saying they cannot support the prosecution, according to the Home Office data.
This is largely because of plummeting prosecution rates with just 1.6 per cent of rape offences resulting in a charge, delays of up to two years in rape cases coming to court and intrusive digital checks on their communications.
Nearly half (45.2 per cent) of victims of violence against the person also withdrew from prosecutions last year, some because of fears of retribution.
James Mulholland, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, blamed court delays and a loss of confidence in successful prosecution.
“The plunge in the charging rate for all police-reported crime but in particular rape complaints to record low levels must be the primary concern for a criminal justice resources-reset,” he said.
Shadow justice minister Peter Kyle said: “Victims should be at the heart of our criminal justice system. Yet faced with a lack of enforceable rights and court delays of several years, they are increasingly choosing to drop out of the process altogether – allowing perpetrators to go free.”
Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner, said the the percentage withdrawing support for prosecutions was “very worrying.”
“It tells us there is falling confidence in our justice system, either to deliver justice or to do so in a timely way,” she said.
The Ministry of Justice says it is combating delays by investing £110m in a range of measures to boost capacity, including recruiting 1,600 new staff and opening some 60 Nightingale courtrooms.