As child sex abuse convictions drop 45%, the number of prosecutions for child sex is more than half in just four years. Courts backlog means that victims have to wait nearly two years before cases are heard by them.

  • The number of convictions for child sexual abuse has nearly halved over the past four years. 
  • In England and Wales, prosecutions declined from 6,394 in 2016/17 down to 3,025 for 2020/21
  • Over the same period, convictions fell from 4,751 – 2,595
  • These figures were obtained under Freedom of Information Act by NSPCC

Prosecutions and convictions for child sexual abuse have fallen by around half in four years as victims are left waiting nearly two years for cases to be heard amid ‘increasingly long and distressing court delays’, research by a children’s charity suggests. 

Data from the NSPCC shows that the combined number of prosecutions in England/Wales has dropped more than half from 6,394 to 3,025 between 2016/17 and 2020/21. Meanwhile, convictions have fallen by 45% from 4,751 down to 2,595 during the same time. 

Further figures from the Ministry of Justice were provided under Freedom of Information Act. They showed that cases took longer to solve, with the average number of days between offence and completion increasing from 526 in 2017/18 to 668 by 2020/21.  

According to the charity, England and Wales saw court closures in England and Wales. This was due to a decline in court staff and an insufficient number of registered intermediaries. The charity also revealed that there has been a 57% increase of police reports on child sexual abuse over five years. 

Prosecutions and convictions for child sexual abuse have fallen by around half in four years (stock image)

In four years, the number of child sexual abuse cases and their convictions has fallen to around half (stock photo).

The NSPCC is calling on Dominic Raab to review and reverse the decline in prosecutions and convictions

Dominic Raab has been urged by NSPCC to examine and reverse the decrease in convictions and prosecutions.


Two young men who were involved in the justice system are featured by the NSPCC. 

One of the victims said, “I was sexually assaulted about a year ago.” Because I was certain that the incident wasn’t true, I reported it. The incident happened over several months, and it is now that I am being called to court to provide evidence. Just as normal was returning to life, this has been a frustrating experience. 

‘Being in court was harder than I thought – they kept asking loads of questions. Although I understand that they must do what they need to, I felt they weren’t believing me. 

“Since that time, I’ve been replaying the court proceedings over and over in my mind, trying to figure out if I was wrong. To be honest, I’m not bothered about the outcome anymore – I just want it to be over quick, and for people to stop worrying about me.’

Another stated, “Today was the first day I needed to go to court in order to provide evidence that I had been sexually assaulted last January.” If I am honest, I did not think that my case would be taken to court. The whole thing is overwhelming. 

I was using a video link so the perpetrator of my assault couldn’t view me. My mum was there with me along with a victim support officer – but I still felt so nervous the whole time. 

“I prepared my statement beforehand, but I got asked lots of questions afterward. I struggled to give detailed answers as it happened so long ago – plus I’ve blocked most of it from my mind anyway. 

The session ended early due to me struggling to talk. The staff said they would have me go back tomorrow but it was something I didn’t like to do.

Anna Edmundson (NSPCC Head of Policy and Public Affairs) said, “Young victims have suffered from unimaginable trauma. Many want to share their evidence and stop perpetrators causing more damage.”

“These numbers show that young witnesses are not being given this chance and those who go to court face long delays and insufficient support which can further traumatize them.

This is completely unacceptable.

“We ask Dominic Raab for a review of the declining prosecutions and convictions, to use Victims’ Law to address the delays that affect child sexual abuse cases passing through courts and to provide better support to young victims and witnesses.

NSPCC supports increased access to specialist sexual violence advisors, who have been trained to work with children. They also support special measures like pre-recording evidence to be used in court and intermediaries that can help children give evidence.

It is calling for a guaranteed share of the £477 million received by the Ministry of Justice in the Spending Review to tackle the backlog of child sexual abuse cases, and to ensure that a proportion of the £185 million funding for Independent Sexual Violence Advisers pays for ‘a significant number’ who are trained to work with children.

NSPCC is also calling for an increase in funding to child houses, which are centres that house a variety of specialists such as social workers and police officers.

Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said that child sexual abuse cases are among our most complex, sensitive and difficult cases. These cases are handled by specially-trained prosecutors who work closely with police officers to create the strongest possible case that meets our legal requirements.

“The last year has seen an increase in prosecuted cases by 22 percent, most of which result in a conviction.

‘We acknowledge, however, that there is still more work to be done in order to increase cases getting to court. CPS works with Government partners to resolve the challenges related to a case being brought to trial.

According to the CPS, 4,347 people were charged with child sexual abuse offenses between July 2020 and June 2021. The conviction rate was 84.2%.

In the period July 2019 to June 2020, 3,556 cases were successfully prosecuted, which resulted in an 84.4% rate of convictions.