Victims’ Commissioner’s survey finds victims’ confidence in the justice system is worryingly low

Today (9th September 2021), the Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird has published the results of her 2021 Victims Survey, finding that victims are losing faith in the justice system.

A woman looking out of the window

Launched in the summer, the survey sought to understand victims’ priorities and gain insights into their experiences of the criminal justice system over the past three years, including during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The survey features responses from almost 600 victims and found confidence in the justice system is low, particularly among women and minoritised communities:

  • Just 9% of women have confidence in the system compared to 16% of men
  • 67% of minoritised respondents felt the police failed to treat them fairly and respectfully

Overall, just 43% of victims would report a crime again based on their previous experiences of the justice system. Additionally, only 43% say they would be likely to report crimes to authorities in the future, raising concerns about the justice system’s ability to determine the scale of offending and respond appropriately.

Authorities failing victims

Some respondents said the police ‘did not take their complaints seriously’ and those reporting domestic violence often felt the police were unresponsive to their reports. A female victim of domestic violence said:

“I felt blamed and that they tried to lower my expectations because they didn’t want to charge him from the outset. I felt the evidence I provided them with was disregarded.” 

Victims’ concern with the justice system extended to the court process and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), with the vast majority (83%) saying they didn’t have confidence in the effectiveness of the CPS in prosecuting those accused of a crime.

This finding mirrors the experience of rape survivors, who experience a justice system where rape has been effectively decriminalised. CPS data on rape convictions show that the past year saw the lowest number of convictions on record. In addition, the proportion of cases charged that result in conviction decreased across the year, meaning the CPS’ success rate in court has declined.

Just 9% of victims thought the courts dealt with cases promptly, underscoring the urgent need to address the Crown Court’s backlog of cases, which now stands at around 59,000 cases. For those whose cases were heard in court, just half of victims would attend court again – down significantly from 67% in 2020.

Barriers to support services

Fewer than half (44%) of respondents said it was easy to access victims’ services. A young female victim from London said:

“Victims services are overwhelmed, there is not enough staff to deal with the amount of victims referred which means waiting lists are long or in some cases even closed. Accessing support is incredibly difficult.”

These findings reflect what specialist ‘by and for’ women’s organisations have long said about how the justice system is systematically failing women; particularly those who experience intersecting inequalities.

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:

“The lack of confidence in the justice system comes as no surprise to women’s organisations, who have long called out the multiple barriers to justice facing female victims of male violence.

We know that Black and minoritised women are at the sharp edge of the justice system; being both disproportionately victimised and facing greater barriers to justice and support than other survivors due to victim blaming, systemic sexism and racism within justice agencies and a lack of funding for specialist ‘by and for’ support services.

We welcome the Commissioner’s commitment to improving justice and support for victims but call for future work to be disaggregated by gender and other protected characteristics to ensure an intersectional analysis of how victims are treated by the justice system.”

ENDS

Notes

Spokespeople are available for comment.

EVAW media line: 07960 744 502

Email: [email protected]

 

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