Revealed: Norfolk crime victims wait years for justice as court delays rise
PUBLISHED: 11:01 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:01 08 February 2018
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Fears have been raised that victims of crime are being put through undue distress as the time courts take to deal with cases soars.
In one case, an alleged victim of historic sexual abuse has described her frustration after the trial she was a witness in was listed nine different times over two years because of the defendant’s ill-health.
The case, at Norwich Crown Court, was brought to an end in January when the defendant died.
One of the alleged victims said of the process: “My marriage has suffered, and the amount of stress, disillusionment and frustration I have felt, and still feel, is enormous.”
It comes as Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures show victims waited almost two years on average from a crime being committed to the case being finished with by Norwich and King’s Lynn crown courts last year - an increase from just over one year in 2014.
The MoJ said the rise was partly down to more complicated cases.
Historic sex offence cases, for example, can take years to deal with, while fraud trials can last weeks.
Charity Victim Support warned today that court delays were causing huge distress for victims and witnesses.
In a hearing listed for Norwich Crown Court on Friday, a family has been waiting more than two years to see justice in the case of a woman sexually assaulted in her own home.
Anthony Holloway was arrested and charged in December 2015 for the alleged offence against the mother with dementia in Sprowston.
After several delays his case was not listed for trial until September 2017.
But during the trial he lied to the court and told them his uncle had died.
The judge stopped the trial and Holloway fled. He was arrested later at a home in Sprowston and pleaded guilty to sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder impeding choice.
But his sentencing hearing in December was delayed. Then in January this year, when he was meant to be sentenced, he asked to change his plea to not guilty.
An MoJ spokesman said: “There are no resourcing issues at Norwich Crown Court but short-term changes in court timeliness can be affected by a number of factors including the mix of offence type, and the complexity and volume of cases.”
The average time it takes for cases to be dealt with once they reach Norwich and King’s Lynn crown courts has gone up by almost a month since 2014, despite the courts dealing with fewer defendants.
It took 175 days on average in 2017 from a case first being listed to completed, compared to 149 days in 2014.
And the time cases take to get to court after a suspect has been charged with a crime has almost doubled. In 2014 it was 13 days and is now 25 days, according to MoJ figures.
Simon Nicholls, from Belmores solicitors, said: “It is a problem across the system, not just in Norfolk. Police investigations are being delayed, court appearances are being extended and trials are often put off. Much of the explanation lies at the feet of the lack of resources for every element of the criminal justice system.”
Alex Mayes, from Victim Support, said: “We know from our research that more than half of victims feel that waiting times for cases to reach court are too long and this can cause additional stress, anxiety and inconvenience.
“Multiple adjournments also cause significant distress for victims and witnesses, with many feeling re-victimised having prepared themselves mentally and practically for court, only to have the date rearranged.”
One case of historic sex offences was dismissed at Norwich Crown Court last Tuesday, after the accused, an 89-year-old man, died.
Abuse allegations were first made against Albert New from Wreningham near Wymondham to police in 2013.
He was arrested in 2014 and charged in 2015.
But his trial for 15 historic sex abuse allegations against three victims was postponed nine times because his barrister said he was too ill to stand trial.
One of his alleged victims said over the last two years there were long delays by Mr New’s defence team producing medical evidence about his ill-health.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, said pursuing the case was in the public interest.
In a brief hearing last Tuesday Judge Katharine Moore dismissed the case following his death.