• Sunday, August 14, 2022

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Unacceptable that victims and survivors of sexual offences are waiting up to five years to get a court date: Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan implored the Justice Secretary for urgent action to tackle the court backlog

London mayor Sadiq Khan. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

London mayor Sadiq Khan has urged Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to take urgent steps to support victims of rape and sexual offences, saying the crisis in the justice system is straining the support services.

In an open letter, Khan sought measures to tackle the persistent problem of “severe court backlogs” which contributed to the support services being “stretched to the limit”.

He reminded the government that the London Survivors Gateway temporarily stopped taking new referrals earlier this month and a few Rape Crisis Centres could not add to their waiting lists for counselling.

Victims and survivors had to wait for up to five years to get a court date as there were about 16,000 outstanding cases in London’s Crown Courts and nearly 73,000 in magistrates’ courts.

Office for National Statistics data showed that nearly 195,000 sexual offences were recorded in England and Wales in the year ending in March 22, registering a record 31.6 per cent increase over the previous year.

In London alone, police recorded more than 25,000 sexual offences during the period, with an annual 35 per cent rise. The number of rape cases also rose 24 per cent year-on-year to 9,245.

Khan, who was re-elected the mayor of the British capital for a second term in 2021, said the pendency of cases and the increase in sexual offences were “putting stretched support services in an impossible position”, as more people were looking for help.

The Labour politician of Pakistani origin said he was doing everything he could to support the efforts to improve services for victims and survivors of rape and sexual assaults.

He claimed he had overseen an investment of more than £100 million in tackling violence against women and girls but the government too needed to act urgently to the end.

“I am hugely concerned about the impact that the crisis in our justice system is having on survivors of rape and sexual offences in our city,” Khan said.

“It is unacceptable that victims and survivors are waiting up to five years to get a court date and now vitally important support services are being stretched to breaking point.

“This is exacerbating trauma, leaving vulnerable people feeling isolated and increasing the likelihood of victims withdrawing from the justice system altogether. We’re doing all we can from City Hall but we urgently need the Government to step forward and take steps to tackle the court backlog and ensure that support services are able to help Londoners in their time of need.”

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