Pandemic impacts reports of sexual crime

In the second quarter of 2020, overall sexual offence reports fell by just over one third. Credit: PA Media

Concerns have been raised about the pandemic's impact on dealing with sexual crimes in Northern Ireland.

The Criminal Justice Inspection report highlighted a reduction in the number of offences reported to police.

Reports of sexual crime were at their highest level in 15 years at the outset of the pandemic, but those figures dropped markedly during the health crisis and criminal justice inspectors have expressed concern that this could be linked to the lockdown and the fact that victims were often living with their attackers.

In the 12 months from December 1 2019 to November 30 2020, sexual offences decreased by 6.6%, with reported rapes falling by 2.3% and other sexual offences decreasing by 8.4%.

Inspectors noted that it was "highly likely" the fall in reports was "exacerbated by the conditions of lockdown, particularly for those who have been assaulted in their homes and for child victims".

The chief inspector of criminal justice in Northern Ireland, Jacqui Durkin, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has unfortunately stalled or delayed action in relation to some inspection recommendations and has created a backlog and further delays in a criminal justice system where victims of sexual offences may have to wait two or three years for a trial to commence."