Trials for nearly 200 ‘very old’ rape cases to start within months after ‘unacceptable’ delays | Bolt Burdon Kemp Trials for nearly 200 ‘very old’ rape cases to start within months after ‘unacceptable’ delays | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Trials for nearly 200 ‘very old’ rape cases to start within months after ‘unacceptable’ delays

Nearly 200 “very old” rape cases could be brought to trial within months after an “unacceptable” delay, a senior judge has announced.

Lord Justice Edis, senior presiding judge for England and Wales, said it was a “significant injustice” that so many cases had been delayed.

There were 3,355 rape cases awaiting trial at the end of January and six percent of those were “very old”, according to the Court of Appeal judge.

Some of the 181 old cases Lord Edis identified involve children, and others involve allegations of rape dating back as far as the Seventies.

They should be heard by the end of July, he said.

The delays have been attributed to various factors, including challenges in gathering evidence, issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and changes in legal procedures.

Prosecuting historic rape cases is complex, often involving challenges such as evidence availability, witness testimony reliability, and the passage of time affecting memories. Additionally, changes in legal procedures, including the introduction of pre-recorded evidence, have added complications.

The Court of Appeal judge said: “It’s a small proportion of the total number of rape cases that we have to deal with that end up getting this old but, nevertheless, it’s a significant injustice because the system has recovered its capacity.

“We are now in a position to make some choices. We are not in a hand-to-mouth crisis now.”

Efforts are underway to expedite trials, with prosecutors aiming to bring cases to court swiftly. Special teams have been established to handle the large number of cases, and additional resources allocated to ensure efficient trial proceedings.

The news is welcomed by victims’ advocacy groups, but concerns have been raised about the impact of delays on both victims and the accused, as well as the challenges of securing convictions in cases where evidence may be limited due to time passing.

Overall, we’re glad historic cases of sexual abuse and the challenges involved in prosecuting them are being addressed. Hopefully justice can finally be served for parties involved.

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