Record number of criminal cases collapse in Bedfordshire after alleged victims drop out
Campaigners call it a “huge cause for concern”
A record number of criminal offences closed in Bedfordshire last year failed to reach court after alleged victims withdrew support for their case, figures reveal.
Campaigners and the Labour Party say crime victims across England and Wales are being let down by the justice system due to spiralling delays and a lack of support.
Home Office data shows that of 51,929 offences closed by Bedfordshire Police last year, 15,556 fell through after the alleged victim did not support further action.
At 30 per cent, that was the highest rate of cases to collapse for this reason since comparable figures were first published in 2015, when just 17.6 per cent of offences assigned outcomes that year ended with this result.
It was also higher than 27.1 per cent in 2019.
Rachel Almeida, assistant director at Victim Support, said the trend was a “huge cause for concern”.
“The criminal justice process relies on victims to report crimes, assist with investigations and give evidence in court," she said.
“Large rises in victims not supporting action presents a very serious challenge to the whole system.”
Ms Almeida said the factors driving the rise were complex, and could include concerns about long waits for a trial, or a lack of confidence in the justice system more generally.
She added: “What is clear is that too often victim care has been seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a core component of the process. This must change.
“Addressing victim attrition must be made a priority by the Government through improving victims’ treatment and faith in the justice process.”
Of the cases dropped in Bedfordshire last year after a victim did not support further action, a suspect was identified for 11,596 – around 75 per cent.
Peter Kyle, Labour’s former shadow victims and youth justice minister, said the fact so many victims are dropping out of criminal cases is “allowing perpetrators to go free”.
The Government is failing in its duty to protect victims and keep the public safe, he added.
A government spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting all victims of crime. That is why we will be introducing a new Victims’ Law to protect them, as well as recruiting 20,000 more police officers, and boosting funding for support services to build confidence in the justice system.”
He added that £450 million invested to speed up the justice system was already having an impact, with outstanding magistrates’ cases falling by around 80,000 since last summer and crown court cases at pre-Covid levels.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dee Perkins, chairman of Bedfordshire Police’s victim and witnesses engagement board, said: “We understand that the court process is difficult and with the Covid pandemic this has led to significant delays for victims.
"It is vital that victims of crime are at the heart of everything we do and we need to flex as an organisation to be able to meet the complex demands generated by the pandemic
“Bedfordshire Police have invested heavily in victim care ensuring we get the support right for victims.
"We have doubled the number of victim engagement officers, who specialise in providing a holistic service and offering both practical and emotional support to victims of crime.
"We have focused on improving victim safeguarding, creating a dedicated Safeguarding Intervention Team within our specialist domestic abuse team Emerald. We have placed victim engagement offices into our public protection teams recognising the need to support victims through their journey to court.”