By Richard Evans
THE UK justice system must improve on how it deals with rape cases and victims, a member of the North Wales Police and Crime Panel urged.
Speaking at Conwy’s Bodlondeb HQ at a meeting this week, Cllr Chris Bithell said he was aware of a ‘horrendous’ court case in which he says the accused was allowed to intimidate a victim in the waiting room.
Cllr Bithell also claimed rape cases went on too long and often had a poor conviction rate.
His claims followed an annual report revealing all recorded crime in North Wales had fallen by 5.9% from 67,617 cases the previous year to 63,652.
Specifically, violence against women and girls was down by 10.5%, and rape had fallen by 8.1%, down from 798 cases to 733.
The figures were taken between April 2022 and March 2023 and compared to the previous 12 months.
But Cllr Chris Bithell said the UK justice system needed to do better.
“I’ve been reading recently about the justice scoreboard published by the Government in England and Wales, and it mentions the fact that under one percent of reported cases of rape actually get to conviction in court, which is deplorable really. It’s abysmal,” he said.
“We are endeavouring to do our best here, but obviously there are faults with the criminal justice system in dealing with some of these particular cases. I believe it can take anything up to 817 days. That’s two and a quarter years for a case to come to court, by which time many individuals who have made the allegations in the first place have cried off. They don’t get any break from this until it has been dealt with in court. So many people actually give up on the system long before it ever reaches court. It is pretty deplorable.”
Then Cllr Bithell reiterated the problem was a national one, adding the issue was not the fault of North Wales Police, the chief constable, or the crime commissioner.
But the Flintshire councillor said rape victims deserved better protection.
“The experiences of those people who have been through the system are indicative in this respect,” he said.
“I was told by a former colleague, for example, who gave evidence in a case that had happened many years ago. She went to court with the victim, and they were sitting in the court in the waiting room with the perpetrator with the family, (and there were) dirty looks across the room and so forth, loud comments being made across the room, etc. etc.
“You know, we wouldn’t put ourselves through that. At the end of the day, we need to look at this effectively in dealing with these cases. It’s horrendous, really, that they deal with them in this particular fashion, and again, it is no surprise that numbers are dropping and the numbers that get to court and convictions are so deplorable, to say the least.”
Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman was then asked if North Wales Police was able to come back with a more detailed breakdown of rape cases, and the chief constable agreed to provide detailed figures in the future.