Publications

Delays in Trials: the implications for victim-survivors of rape and serious sexual assault: an update

Published: December 2021

Summary

In contrast to other types of crime recorded by the police in Scotland, the numbers of sexual crimes have been steadily increasing since the mid-1970s. Sexual crime increased by eight percent between 2017-18 and 2018-191 such that sexual offences are considered ‘core business’ for Scotland’s prosecution service. In a statement to the Criminal Justice Committee, the Lord Advocate for Scotland stated that serious sexual offences constitute around 70 per cent of High Court work and 80 to 85 per cent of cases that proceed to trial.2 Covid-19 has significantly disrupted the operation of the criminal justice system in Scotland and elsewhere, causing considerable strain to the system and leading to significant delays in the processing of cases as well as uncertainty for those who are caught up in it as victims and alleged offenders. Delays in sexual offence cases are not new; waiting times have been unacceptably lengthy for some time. Long before lockdown and the disruption to criminal justice processes, the challenges faced by victim survivors as a result of delays in their case progression, poor communication, the uncertainties about trial dates and last-minute changes to court locations were well-established (HM Inspectorate of Prosecution, 2017; Brooks-Hay et al., 2019).

In this paper, we discuss the implications of these delays to the operation of the criminal justice system for those reporting rape and serious sexual offences, who are disproportionately women and children.