Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Criminal Justice Journeys of Adult and Child Survivors of Sexual Abuse, Rape and Sexual Assault, 2020-2022

DOI

Over 150,000 sexual offences were recorded by police in year ending March 2020 (ONS, 2020), and there are indications that the Covid-19 lockdown increased some sexual offences (e.g. online -facilitated abuse, or sexual abuse perpetrated by family members) and decreased others (e.g. assaults by strangers/peers). However, there has been no research into the specific effects of Covid-19 on criminal justice system (CJS) policies and practices relating to sexual offences, nor on the journeys of survivors through the CJS during this period. Prior to the pandemic, there were significant challenges for the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences and conviction rates were extremely low. Some of these challenges may well have been exacerbated by Covid-19 and lockdown e.g. further delays to investigating cases, postponement of Achieving Best Evidence interviews. At the same time, however, Covid-19 has generated significant innovation within the CJS, e.g. the introduction of a video platform within the courts enabling all parties in a criminal hearing to engage securely and remotely, and this may sow the seeds for improvement in survivors’ journeys through the CJS. Drawing on the perspectives and experiences of CJS stakeholders, including complainants and families, police, Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Services, the Judiciary, Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs), and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, this project provide unique insights into the impact of the pandemic on the CJS in sexual offence cases. The data shared here is based on 72 interviews conducted with survivors/family members, and professionals from the police, SARCs and the third sector. The findings identify how the pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges, posed new difficulties, and provoked innovations that could improve the experiences of victims and survivors of sexual violence and abuse.Over 150,000 sexual offences were recorded by the police in the year ending March 2020 (ONS, 2020), and there are indications that lockdown increased some sexual offences (e.g. online-facilitated abuse, sexual abuse perpetrated by family members) and decreased others (e.g. assaults by strangers/peers). However, there has been no research into the specific effects of Covid-19 on criminal justice system (CJS) policies and practices relating to sexual offences, nor on the journeys of survivors through the CJS during this period. Prior to the pandemic, there were significant challenges for the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences and conviction rates were extremely low. Some of these challenges may well have been exacerbated by Covid-19 and lockdown e.g. further delays to investigating cases, postponement of Achieving Best Evidence interviews. At the same time, however, Covid-19 has generated significant innovation within the CJS e.g. the introduction of a video platform within the courts enabling all parties in a criminal hearing to engage securely and remotely, and this may sow the seeds for improvement in survivors' journeys through the CJS. Drawing on the perspectives and experiences of CJS stakeholders, including complainants and families, police, Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Services, the Judiciary, Sexual Assault Referral Centres, and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, this research will provide unique insights into the impact of the pandemic on the CJS in sexual offence cases. Changes to procedures precipitated by Covid-19 might offer longer-term benefits for survivors and stakeholders and we aim to identify these and promote their implementation.

We conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with survivors and their families, as well as with practitioners representing key Criminal Justice System stakeholder groups from a range of geographical locations across England and Wales between May 2021 and May 2022. We focused on their experiences since the first lockdown came into force on the 23rd March 2020, and captured the evolution in practices that occurred, including during the winter lockdowns. Individuals were approached through a range of avenues, including via our partners and advisory group members, existing links with survivor and professional organisations and networks, and social media.

Identifier
DOI https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-856038
Metadata Access https://datacatalogue.cessda.eu/oai-pmh/v0/oai?verb=GetRecord&metadataPrefix=oai_ddi25&identifier=ef4c28807699e61a76b2225a42e50c7800be5c427d3d25675f2588d878b2e031
Provenance
Creator O'Doherty, L, Coventry University; Weare, S, Lancaster University; Sleath, E, University of Leicester; Munro, V, University of Warwick; Cutland, M, University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust; Carter, G, Coventry University; Hudspith, L, Lancaster University
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2022
Funding Reference ESRC
Rights Lorna O'Doherty, Coventry University. Siobhan Weare, Lancaster University. Sleath Sleath, University of Leicester. Vanessa Munro, University of Warwick. Michelle Cutland, University Hospitals Bristol & Weston NHS Foundation Trust; The UK Data Archive has granted a dissemination embargo. The embargo will end on 19 May 2023 and the data will then be available in accordance with the access level selected.
OpenAccess true
Representation
Language English
Resource Type Text
Discipline Jurisprudence; Law; Social and Behavioural Sciences
Spatial Coverage England and Wales, UK; United Kingdom