Record number of criminal cases collapse in Lancashire
Trials dropped after alleged victims refuse to give evidence
A record number of criminal offences closed in Lancashire 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 125,309 offences closed by Lancashire Constabulary last year, 47,030 fell through after the alleged victim did not support further action.
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At 37.5 per cent, that was the highest rate of cases to collapse for this reason since comparable figures were first published in 2015, when just 12.6 per cent of offences assigned outcomes that year ended with this result.
It was also higher than 29.9 per cent in 2019.
Across England and Wales, 27.4 per cent of criminal cases closed last year collapsed after alleged victims withdrew support for further action – up from 25.1 per cent in 2019 and the highest rate since 2015, when 12.8 per cent were closed for this reason.
The figures do not include Greater Manchester Police as it did not submit complete data.
Rachel Almeida, assistant director at Victim Support, said the trend across the two nations 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 Lancashire last year after a victim did not support further action, a suspect was identified for 39,094 – around 83 per cent, compared to 82 per cent across England and Wales.
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 £450m 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.