Criminal justice system ‘persistently failing’ survivors of sexual abuse, MPs report
Survivors of child sexual abuse are being let down by the “persistent failure” of the criminal justice system, a report by MPs and peers has found.
The parliamentarians said they were concerned that changes to police bail rules had resulted in almost 3,000 suspected sex offenders questioned by police being released under investigation with no conditions attached.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse called for a presumption that suspects under investigation for sexual offences should only be released from police custody on bail.
The report also called for a new victim’s law to strengthen the rights of survivors, including a new code setting out national standards for timelines and updates for complainants, a clear complaints process and a beefed-up role for the Victims’ Commissioner.
The inquiry heard from 365 abuse survivors who responded to an online survey, and 12 who gave evidence in Parliament.
Only 54% of survivors said they had reported the abuse to the police.
Of those who reported abuse, 64% did not see a charge brought and the overwhelming majority said the support provided to them at that point was poor or very poor.
A fifth of those who had not reported allegations to the authorities said they were afraid of further violence from their abuser, while 30% said they did not believe their case would be successfully prosecuted.
The APPG’s chairwoman Sarah Champion (pictured) said: “Our inquiry found overwhelming evidence of persistent failure by the police and CPS to support and secure justice for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
“Survivors of child sexual abuse are losing faith in the criminal justice system.”
Labour MP for Rotherham Ms Champion uncovered the figures for suspects released under investigation through a series of Freedom of Information requests.
Figures from 20 police forces in England and Wales showed that in 2016/17 4,657 child sexual suspects were placed on pre-charge bail, which fell by 56% in 2017/18 to 2,036.
Over the same two years, the number of suspects released under investigation rose from 261 to 2,993 as the new bail rules were introduced.
A 28-day limit on pre-charge bail was brought in in 2017 following complaints about people being left in legal limbo for months before learning they had been cleared.
Ms Champion said: “I am particularly concerned that Government bail changes in 2017 means a massive increase in suspected perpetrators are being released without any bail conditions before they are formally charged.
“This presents a huge risk to survivors, witnesses and the public and the Government has to act to address this safety risk immediately.”
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