More than one in three investigations – a staggering 1,775,523 cases – were shelved due to a lack of evidence in the year to December. The number of cases that collapsed rocketed from 16 percent in the year to March 2015 to 39 percent. More than one in five probes were even closed after the suspect had been identified, it was said.
Experts yesterday warned the soaring number of people giving up on seeking justice suggests many victims “do not have confidence” in the system.
The Home Office figures revealed just 7.5 percent of crimes ended up with a suspect appearing before a judge or being cautioned in the year to December.
James Mulholland QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “The principal reason why complainants in both sexual allegation and violence cases are walking away rests with a lack of prosecution resources and delays of years, which prevent the vast majority of such allegations progressing through to charge and trial.
“The plunge in the charging rate for all police-reported crime, but in particular rape complaints, to record low levels must be the primary concern for a criminal justice resources reset.
“If criminal cases are kept out of court because the criminal justice system has been deprived of the resources it needs to deal with them, that will rock public trust and risk people taking matters into their own hands. We will end up with a two-tier justice system.
“Charging rates overall for rape have come down to around 1.5 percent, less than one 10th of the charging rate of 17.2 percent in 2015/16 once a rape allegation was made to police.
“The drop out rate for rape cases under ‘victim does not support action’ has risen quarter on quarter, now at 44.3 percent, up from an already unacceptably high 42.2 percent at September 2020.
“The rate has doubled in just five years.”
Overall, 338,743 of the 4,529,675 crimes reported to police resulted in a suspect being charged.
Danny Shaw, head of strategy and insight at Crest Advisory, a criminal justice consultancy, said: “The long-term decline in charging rates, which has been going on for about six years, is very worrying.
“The main reason appears to be an increase in the number of cases which have had ‘evidential difficulties’, meaning police have problems gathering enough evidence to take cases to court.
“In 2014/15, 16.6 percent of cases failed because of evidential difficulties. By last year that figure had more than doubled to 39.2 percent.
“The main cause of evidential difficulties is the victim declining to help the police investigation or support a prosecution.
“The increase in this category may reflect the changing mix of cases, with more sexual offences being recorded. They’re harder to get victims to co-operate.
“Increasing the proportion of crimes which are detected is one of the greatest challenges facing police, prosecutors and the Home Office.”