top of page
Adults'
All features
Training
Children's

Child sexual abuse victims facing ‘distressing’ delays as waiting times surge

New data show court waiting times for child sexual abuse cases have surged by 43% in four years.

15/08/22

Child sexual abuse victims facing ‘distressing’ delays as waiting times surge

Delays in the justice system are causing victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) to be distressed as waiting times surge.

Data from the Ministry of Justice shows the average number of days between a defendant in CSA cases in England and Wales being charged and the criminal trial starting has risen by 43% in four years – from 276 days in 2017 to 395 days in 2021.

The NSPCC says that for a child who is already suffering with depression, self-harming, suicidal thoughts or PTSD because of sexual abuse, a “drawn-out” court process can be extremely distressing and add to the significant mental health impact of the original abuse.

Heidi – whose name has been changed for this report – was sexually abused by her step-grandfather over several years from the age of 8. She was 13 when she disclosed the abuse.

“As a child who had reported abuse to police, I remember asking my mum ‘What’s going on? Have you had updates?’ and no one was keeping her updated. My laptop and phone were taken as evidence, and I’d ask my mum when I’d get this back; she wasn’t told. We didn’t know how long the process might take and there was a lot of waiting,” Heidi, who is now 25 said.

It took around a year for Heidi’s case to reach court, then when the case went to retrial, she waited another nine months. The perpetrator was found guilty and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

“We’d get a letter, maybe after a few weeks of no updates, maybe after a few months, and that would say what we needed to do next, but we never had why these decisions were made explained to us.

“From when I reported my abuse through to the court verdict took two years, so there was a lot of waiting.

The NSPCC says there is also not enough access to therapeutic support to help young people cope and recover from sexual abuse. It says that often only generic mental health services are offered rather than more effective specialist post-sexual abuse services. Even though there’s a high prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in young abuse victims, only one in five young people who experienced it say they have seen a mental health professional.

“It is clear in hindsight I needed counselling or therapy even before I disclosed the abuse, but I was told I couldn’t have therapeutic support about the abuse during the trial, so I was signposted to my GP and put on antidepressants,” Heidi said.

“I had to stay on these until I could access support. I was referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and got an appointment after a six month wait. I was there for less than half an hour and left having been given the impression they thought I was too broken for them to be able to help me and wasn’t offered their support.”

Campaigners say that the courts have suffered from chronic underfunding for many years which has impacted the efficiency of the justice system and resulted in a gradual rise in waiting times. This was made worse as courts were closed during the pandemic, increasing the backlog. Data from the Ministry of Justice revealed the build-up of CSA cases rose by 70% in just one year from nearly 2,700 in 2019/20 to over 4,560 in 2020/21.

The NSPCC says it is concerned young people’s needs are being overlooked as the draft Victims Bill does not include a single mention of child victims of sexual abuse.

Sir Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of NSPCC, has now called on the Justice Secretary appointed by the new Prime Minister to put children’s distinct needs at the heart of the Bill.

“Sexual abuse can have a debilitating impact on young people and rob them of their childhoods. But with the right support including, crucially, access to justice they can recover.

“Unfortunately, children’s needs are not being met by the criminal justice system, with distressing delays to get to court and inadequate mental health support.

The NSPCC says they want to see some of the £477million received by the Ministry of Justice in the most recent Spending Review go towards tackling the backlog to decrease waiting times specifically for child sexual abuse cases.

“As opposed to supporting children on their path to recovery, the system can prolong their suffering with untold consequences for their future,” Sir Peter Wanless said.

Paint on Face

Gloucestershire County Council

Deputy Team Manager

Job of the week

Sign up for an informal interview for this role today

£45,441 - £48,474

SWT_SideAd1.png

Featured event

Social World Podcast

Podcast

30 Jan 2024

Instant access

Featured jobs

Barnardo's

Supervising Social Worker

Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Health and Justice Court Practitioner - Social Worker/AHP

SWT_Online_Events_ad.png

Most popular articles today

One in three parents at risk of having babies removed have learning difficulties or disabilities

One in three parents at risk of having babies removed have learning difficulties or disabilities

Parents in substance use services need better care integration, research finds

Parents in substance use services need better care integration, research finds

Reflective supervision ‘best practice guide’ launches in Edinburgh

Reflective supervision ‘best practice guide’ launches in Edinburgh

First trial of new suicide prevention intervention designed for autistic people

First trial of new suicide prevention intervention designed for autistic people

Sponsored Content

What's new today:

Supporting social work students with additional needs during their placement

bottom of page