Burglary victims drop more prosecutions as confidence in justice wanes
Burglary victims are increasingly giving up on the justice system by refusing to support prosecutions, government statistics show.
Almost a third of theft victims, whose case could potentially be taken to court, decide not to back further action – more than double the proportion recorded six years ago.
The Home Office warned police it expects them to fully investigate all crimes in the wake of the statistics.
It reflects concerns held by politicians and campaigners that the public is “clocking off” from the justice system because of difficulties dealing with police and court delays.
Dame Vera Baird, the former victims’ commissioner, said there was a danger people are giving up on the system because justice is too hard to achieve.
The proportion of victims refusing to support prosecutions has more than doubled across all recorded crimes to more than one in four.
That rise has been equally sharp for lower-level offences such as theft and burglary, criminal damage and disturbing public order.
It comes after it emerged that just 5.4 per cent of the 5.4 million crimes recorded in England and Wales last year ended up before a judge.
Separate figures released last Thursday showed that crown court backlogs have hit a record high of 62,766 waiting for trial, up from 35,774.
“It is obviously against the public interest to forgo prosecution and the opportunity to convict someone and get them either on rehabilitation or lock them up so they can’t offend again,” Dame Vera told The Telegraph.
“Although they’ll live with it, victims do really quite want to have justice. They’d like to know the person who broke into their house has been discouraged from doing it again.
“You do kind of cut back the notion that we’re living in a civilised society where criminals are deterred, where property is safe, where you don’t have to worry about coming under attack.”
The proportion of thefts recorded as “evidential difficulties (victim does not support action)” has doubled from 4.7 per cent in 2015/16 to 8.9 per cent last year.
Police closed 70 per cent of cases on the grounds they could not identify a suspect, meaning that in almost a third of those left, the victim did not support prosecution.
Dropped cases on the rise
Similarly for criminal damage and arson, the rate has risen over the past decade from 7.8 per cent to 16.9 per cent; and for public order it has gone up from 22.8 per cent to 29.8 per cent.
More than a fifth of “miscellaneous crimes against society” cases – which include dangerous driving and skipping bail – were dropped, up from 11.8 per cent.
Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow justice secretary, said: “It is shocking that so many victims have given up on ever getting justice under this Conservative Government.
“Their chaotic mismanagement of the justice system has created the longest trial delays on record and the number of criminals facing prosecution is at a record low.
“The Conservatives have waved the white flag to criminals and left victims to pay the price. Labour is the party of law and order.
“The next Labour government will take back control from the criminals, cut trial delays by opening specialist rape courts and increase the number of lawyers allowed to serve as crown prosecutors in court. That’s how we will prevent crime, punish criminals, and protect communities.”
Police recruitment targets likely to be missed
While the Government is pressing on with plans to fulfil its pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers across England and Wales, there are signs they may not fulfil their target by March, the intended deadline, after figures showed that in Dec 2022 the figure was 16,753. Ministers are also working to streamline the judicial process to reduce court backlogs and make sure cases are put before a judge more quickly.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The public rightly expect the police to protect them and ensure those that break the law face justice, and we expect crimes reported to the police to be investigated appropriately.
“We will continue to improve our criminal justice system for victims by investing in a new victim satisfaction survey to shine a light on performance and improve victim support.
“We have also given policing an additional £1.1 billion this year, including millions for tackling crime in the worst-affected areas.”