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Charity calls for judge-only trials for rape and sexual offences cases

JUDGE-ONLY trials for rape and sexual offences cases should be piloted in a “radical” step to help increase convictions and clear court backlogs, a charity said today.

Thousands of cases are waiting to be heard by crown courts, with some being put back to 2022, as the coronavirus pandemic has added to a pre-existing accumulation of work.

In April to June this year, 89.5 per cent of rape and sexual offences cases were classed as not having concluded, up from 75 per cent in the same three months of last year.

Katie Russell of Rape Crisis England & Wales said that survivors’ mental health problems, including insomnia, anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, were exacerbated by the delays.

She argued that “a pilot of judge-only trials in some areas” is an example of measures that should be taken to tackle the “urgent situation.”

Ms Russell said: “We are not trying to demonise juries by any means. But there is evidently widespread public misinformation, and a lot of myths and stereotypes that are absolutely prevalent in the media and society which inevitably will impact jurors.

“We also have concerns about poor charging decisions being made on the assumption that juries will be influenced by myths.”

At the end of July, Crown Prosecution Service figures showed that the number of rape convictions and completed prosecutions had both fallen to a record low in England and Wales.

A survey by Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird revealed this week that fewer than one in seven alleged rape victims feel confident that they can obtain justice by reporting the matter to police.

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