New Figures Show High Number Of Cases Avoid Prosecution Due To Ill-Health Or Age

Statistics Put Non-recent Abuse Cases In The Spotlight


Expert lawyers from Irwin Mitchell have said that new criminal prosecution figures highlight the need for survivors of non-recent abuse to be supported in their pursuit for justice and any reasons why the accused cannot stand trial to be fully explained. 

It has been revealed that more than 2,000 suspected criminals avoided prosecution in England and Wales last year because of their ill-health or age, figures have shown. 

The Crown Prosecution Service said 1,892 cases were dropped at court due to the "significant ill-health, elderliness or youth" of a defendant. Another 439 cases were abandoned before the suspect was charged.

In 2013 this figure was 1,714 and 1,402 in 2012 which shows a rise in recent years of cases that have seen prosecutions dropped. 

The figures have been released after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Press Association. Although they did not specify the nature of the suspected offences there has been an increase in non-recent abuse cases since the Jimmy Savile cover-up. Often with these cases they reach court many years after the alleged offence took place. 

The case of former Labour MP Lord Janner, who has dementia, made headlines after the CPS decided not to pursue non-recent child sex abuse claims against him. The decision was overturned following a review, and a fitness to plead hearing is due to take place on 7 December with Lord Janner denying all allegations.

A spokeswoman for the Code for Crown Prosecutors recognised that “the more serious the offence, the more likely it is that a prosecution is required, and the age or ill-health of a defendant will be taken into account when deciding whether to prosecute.” 

Earlier this week a Panorama programme raised further questions about the Jimmy Saville scandal with the BBC yet to publish a report three years in the making with the Metropolitan Police saying the findings could hamper investigations into on-going sexual abuse claims. 

Tracey Storey, a specialist abuse lawyer at law firm Irwin Mitchell says that justice and support is crucial for survivors of abuse.

Expert Opinion
“Since the scarcely believable scandal broke about Jimmy Savile, there has been a growing number of people bravely coming forward with non-recent sexual abuse claims.

“The harrowing nature of this abuse has had such a major impact on the lives of survivors, affecting their ability to work and to form relationships. Some people carry the trauma of abuse with them for many years.

“Now it is more frequently in the public eye, more people are coming forward to talk about what they went through in the hope justice can be served and to stop these types of incidents happening again.

“Unfortunately, due to the nature of the crimes it often takes years before victims feel they can discuss what happened to them and often by this stage their abuser has aged significantly. After living with these effects for years and finally finding the coverage to speak out, they deserve to know that everything is being done to ensure their case will be heard.

“If for age, health or any other reason the case cannot go to trial then the Crown Prosecution must fully explain the reasons for this.

“The recent case of Marcus Marcussen, 91, who was sentenced to nine years in prison in February 2015 after being found guilty of 25 counts of indecent assault, is an example of how crucial it is that these cases go to trial.

“Mr Marcussen attempted to challenge his sentence in a hearing last month, on the grounds he was too old, but the appeal was dismissed by judges. After being sentenced further victims have come forward with similar stories of abuse.

“Clearly there will be occasions when someone is too unwell or too old to stand trial but these scenarios should not be a regular occurrence and the Crown Prosecution must attempt to fast-track serious abuse cases so the victims receive justice and the abusers get the punishment they deserve.”
Tracey Storey, Partner