Domestic abuse incidents continue to remain high in England and Wales and it is extremely concerning to see the figures released by the Crown Prosecution Service today appear to show we are going in entirely the wrong direction for victims when it comes to the criminal justice system.
The figures show that the volume of referrals from police to the CPS are down again to 67,703 in 2021/22 compared to 77,812 in 2020/21.
Shockingly there has been a 47% decrease in the volume of referrals compared to 2014/15. There is quite clearly a problem that is not linked to Covid and needs urgently addressing.
The figures show the average waiting time between first submission by the police to the CPS and the decision to charge has continued to increase, rising to nearly an additional seven days from 21 days in quarter one 2021/22 to 27.7 days in quarter four of the same year.
These long waits put an enormous amount of stress and pressure on domestic abuse victims and in many cases, will lead to victims dropping out of the process.
I am also worried to see the volume of suspects charged continues to drop. Despite a small increase on the previous quarter, the volume of suspects charged during 2021/22 is 48,836 which has reduced since the previous year when 50,838 suspects were charged.
Even more worryingly, there has been a 42% decrease since 2014/15 when 84,711 suspects were charged for domestic abuse flagged offences.
Domestic abuse has been very much at the top of the political agenda over the last few years with the Domestic Abuse Act passing through Parliament and the impact of Covid on domestic abuse victims which is where it must remain.
Much work is being done to tackle domestic abuse, but the best of this work is not being rolled out quickly enough when it comes to domestic abuse and the criminal justice system.
Many of us agree that we cannot police our way out of this problem but broadly the criminal justice service clearly has a significant role to play when it comes to domestic abuse.
Victims must be able to approach those involved in the criminal justice system feeling they will receive an excellent response. We cannot continue to let victims down through the justice system which means that perpetrators are not facing punishments for the heinous crimes they commit.
I am calling on the Government to get to grips with this very serious problem. We must look at the poorest performing forces and court areas as well as the best performing to be much more specific about what it will take to transform rhetoric into reality.