Publications

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

Published: July 2020

Summary

Covid-19 has significantly disrupted the operation of the criminal justice system in Scotland and elsewhere, causing considerable strain to the system, as well as uncertainty for those who are caught up in it as victims and alleged offenders. The cessation of jury trials for three months during lockdown has contributed to a significant backlog of cases with lengthy delays before trials can take place.

In the situation where courts are unable to process cases at their normal capacity and, as more cases continue to come into the system, the backlog of sexual offence cases is continuing to increase. This is a real cause for concern for victim-survivors of sexual violence and their advocates, as well as policy makers, lawyers and academics.

This paper outlines the implications of these delays for those reporting rape and serious sexual offences. It draws on the research literature on the impacts that delays to the operation of the criminal justice system have on those who have experienced rape and sexual assault, and from testimonies from victim-survivors about the effects of delays, gained from their participation in two recent research studies on their ‘end to end’ experiences of the Scottish criminal justice process: Evaluation of the National Advocacy Project (Brooks et al., 2018) and Justice Journeys (Brooks-Hay et al., 2019); and from recent victim-survivor correspondence with Rape Crisis Scotland about the impact of the pandemic on their cases.