Record number of criminal cases collapse in Hertfordshire after alleged victims drop out

Campaigners say victims across England and Wales are being let down by the justice system

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 1:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 1:32 pm

A record number of criminal offences closed in Hertfordshire last year failed to reach court after alleged victims withdrew support for their case, figures reveal.

Home Office data shows that of 74,777 offences closed by Hertfordshire Constabulary last year, 25,004 fell through after the alleged victim did not support further action.

At 33.4 per cent, that was the highest rate of cases to collapse for this reason since comparable figures were first published in 2015, when just 13.7 per cent of offences assigned outcomes that year ended with this result.

Police
Police

It was also higher than 29.2 per cent in 2019.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: “Supporting victims of crime is our main focus and we are committed to doing whatever we can to help them through the criminal justice process.

"Both the Constabulary and Police and Crime Commissioner have committed to developing and expanding the Beacon Safeguarding Hub. Furthermore, the PCC has also approved an investment to improve access for victims of sexual abuse, with the provision of enhanced community based services.

"We are also about to enter into a ground breaking pilot with Catch22, to offer support to parent victims of child abuse. This is a growing issue and indeed a major factor why some victims (as parents) do not wish to proceed with a criminal prosecution.

"However, it is important to understand that not every victim wants their crime to result in a sanction, let alone one issued by the court.

"Many victims do not support formal police action from the outset, for one reason or another and this is something we have to consider and respect when taking investigations forward.

"For example, we had previously recognised an increasing level of victim issues in attending court particularly for domestic abuse cases.

"We fully understand how distressing it is for a victim of DA to go through the entire court processes and with this in mind we have invested heavily in greater support for our DA victims in particular, including working with HMCTS and CPS partners to develop remote evidence centres to make evidence giving less intimidating and more convenient.

"However, we continue to fully support victims who feel they can no longer support a prosecution.”

Across England and Wales, 27.4 per cent of criminal cases closed last year collapsed after alleged victims withdrew support for further action – up from 25.1 per cent in 2019 and the highest rate since 2015, when 12.8 per cent were closed for this reason.

The figures do not include Greater Manchester Police as it did not submit complete data.

Campaigners say crime victims across England and Wales are being let down by the justice system due to spiralling delays and a lack of support.

Rachel Almeida, assistant director at Victim Support, said the trend across the two nations was a “huge cause for concern”.

“The criminal justice process relies on victims to report crimes, assist with investigations and give evidence in court," she said.

“Large rises in victims not supporting action presents a very serious challenge to the whole system.”

Ms Almeida said the factors driving the rise were complex, and could include concerns about long waits for a trial, or a lack of confidence in the justice system more generally.

She added: “What is clear is that too often victim care has been seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a core component of the process. This must change.

“Addressing victim attrition must be made a priority by the Government through improving victims’ treatment and faith in the justice process.”

Of the cases dropped in Hertfordshire last year after a victim did not support further action, a suspect was identified for 20,240 – around 81 per cent, compared to 82 per cent across England and Wales.

A government spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting all victims of crime. That is why we will be introducing a new Victims’ Law to protect them, as well as recruiting 20,000 more police officers, and boosting funding for support services to build confidence in the justice system.”

He added that £450 million invested to speed up the justice system was already having an impact, with outstanding magistrates’ cases falling by around 80,000 since last summer and crown court cases at pre-Covid levels.