Trial delays frustrating and disgraceful, says Telford abuse victim
A witness in an historic child sex abuse case who has been waiting almost 12 months for the trial to get underway has described the situation as “disgraceful”.
The alleged victim, now an adult, said the criminal justice system was using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for the delay in getting the matter before a jury.
He is calling for all such proceedings to be speeded up and given priority.
His plea has been backed by the NSPCC, which said whether witnesses were adults or children it was vital that cases are heard as quickly as possible, due to the distressing nature of the process.
The man from Telford, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “To me the courts need to wake up. People’s lives are on hold. It takes an awful lot of strength for victims like me to come forward. The authorities should really be doing more to get cases dealt with from start to finish much more quickly.
“It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s been well over 12 months since the matter was first reported to the police, an investigation carried out, an arrest and charges made.
“The person has been on bail. Anything could have happened in that time. Other young people could be at risk. That’s far too long.
“I’ve been given all sorts of excuses. Initially I was told that delays early on were caused by the defendant needing time to sort out his legal representation.
“At one stage I got so fed up that I wrote to the court to ask what the problem was.
“I was told that there were issues with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Now I’m being told that delays are due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but I’m not convinced by that. This is a first world country and we have the technology.
“The CPS should be supported better and the courts should be able to make the best use of technology to handle these situations. I’ve found it very frustrating.”
A CPS spokesman said a date for the jury trial had been requested, which would be heard at Shrewsbury after the defendant denied the allegations – but added no date had yet been scheduled.
Crown courts in England and Wales where the most serious offences, like rape and murder, are heard are facing a backlog of some 41,000 cases. An NSPCC spokesman said: “Waiting for court appearances and trials can be extremely distressing for survivors of abuse, whether they are adults or children, so it is vital everything possible is done to ensure cases are heard as quickly as possible.
“The court system is clearly extremely busy at the moment, so when there are delays, support must be available for victims and witnesses throughout the process.”
A recent Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) report stated: “Court sittings and courtroom capacity with social distancing requirements will not allow for reduction of the existing backlog. Some estimates show that the current scale of increase in the backlog would take 10 years to clear at pre-pandemic rates.”
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