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The Downfall of the British Justice System

The United Kingdom is not generally known to be a place with a struggling justice system. However, recent reports from the Home Office have sparked debates among political parties concerned with the overall success of this country’s law enforcement and crime-solving bodies. Recent Home Office statistics exhibit that there were "evidential difficulties" in 2023 with “2.4 million out of 5.4 million recorded crimes”. The Labour Party has controversially highlighted that, according to these reports, only 5.7% of crimes were solved in 2022. In fact, Home Office reports charge rates of 3.6% for sex offenses and 2.1% for rape. Furthermore, barristers have reported to news outlets that the justice system is under tremendous pressure. They have noted a shortage of prosecutors, judges, and courtrooms as well as a lack of effort to clear the crown court backlog. So, why are these statistics so drastic and what is being done about them?

The Labour Party plans to establish a “Charging Commission” to make reforms and find the root of the “decline in successful law enforcement” in response to these statistics. The task force will include senior experts from various prosecutorial and law enforcement sectors. Dame Vera, who was previously the Victim’s Commissioner but resigned due to the justice system’s lack of interest in victims, will serve as the chair of this commission The party notes that they are particularly concerned about victims not wishing to press charges, increasing difficulty of finding evidence, the delays in cases, and the number of suspects being identified. The committee would attempt to find ways to decrease paperwork, increase digital forensics, and hasten the work of police and prosecutors.

According to Emily Thornberry, the police and Crown Prosecution Service have continually blamed each other for the decreasing charge rates, likely hindering many cases. According to The Independent, reports have shown that law enforcement is closing cases without thorough investigation allowing criminals to go free without consequences. In almost 40% of cases, there is no suspect identified with 15% closed due to evidential difficulties. Furthermore, countless cases have been closed due to no suspect despite unanswered lines of inquiry. To make matters worse, Boris Johnson’s plan to recruit 20,000 police officers in three years has led to 38% of officers in England and Wales having served for less than five years. Many have criticized the implications of this rushed plan as reports of sexual assault were found to be dealt with by untrained officers.

This all follows the recent overturned rape conviction of Andrew Malkinson. His case saw new DNA evidence that linked another person to the rape he was sentenced 17 years for. He has accused the Greater Manchester Police of ignoring evidence that could have proven his innocence. This evidence also could have given the victim as she may have to relive the traumatic experience in court. While we would like to think that this committee will solve all of these issues with the best of intentions, it puts a plaster on a gaping hole in the British justice system. With no hope of rehabilitation, there are dropped cases, lack of trust in law enforcement, lack of detectives, and overcrowded prisons, far more than a task force is needed.


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