A RECORD number of criminal offences closed in Cheshire last year failed to reach court after alleged victims withdrew support for their case, figures reveal.

Campaigners and the Labour Party say crime victims across England and Wales are being let down by the justice system due to spiralling delays and a lack of support.

Home Office data shows that of 81,842 offences closed by Cheshire Constabulary last year, 35,301 fell through after the alleged victim did not support further action.

At 43.1%, that was the highest rate of cases to collapse for this reason since comparable figures were first published in 2015, when just 13% of offences assigned outcomes that year ended with this result.

It was also higher than 38.4% in 2019.

Across England and Wales, 27.4% of criminal cases closed last year collapsed after alleged victims withdrew support for further action – up from 25.1% in 2019 and the highest rate since 2015, when 12.8% were closed for this reason.

The figures do not include Greater Manchester Police as it did not submit complete data.

Rachel Almeida, assistant director at Victim Support, said the trend across the two nations was a huge cause for concern.’

She said: “The criminal justice process relies on victims to report crimes, assist with investigations and give evidence in court.’’

“Large rises in victims not supporting action presents a very serious challenge to the whole system.”

Rachel believes the factors driving the rise were ‘complex’, and could include concerns about long waits for a trial, or a lack of confidence in the justice system more generally.

She added: “What is clear is that too often victim care has been seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a core component of the process.

‘‘This must change.

“Addressing victim attrition must be made a priority by the Government through improving victims’ treatment and faith in the justice process.”

Of the cases dropped in Cheshire last year after a victim did not support further action, a suspect was identified for 30,758 – around 87%, compared to 82% across England and Wales.

A Cheshire Constabulary spokesman said: “Victims of crime are at the heart of everything we do here at Cheshire Constabulary and we are committed to ensuring that every victim receives the best possible level of service.

“We are duty bound to identify all crimes reported to the force along with those that are uncovered as part of any ongoing investigation.

“All crimes must be logged under Home Office regulations and all forces are inspected on accuracy of crime recording.

“There may be occasions where a victim wants to inform the police that a crime has taken place but they do not want police to take action or to support an investigation.

“In the vast majority of cases, the victim’s wishes are respected. However, where there is a public interest, and it is proportionate to do so, forces will try to progress a case.

Peter Kyle, Labour’s former shadow victims and youth justice minister, said the fact so many victims are dropping out of criminal cases is ‘allowing perpetrators to go free.’

He added: ‘‘The Government is failing in its duty to protect victims and keep the public safe.’’

A government spokesman said: “We are committed to supporting all victims of crime.

‘‘That is why we will be introducing a new Victims’ Law to protect them, as well as recruiting 20,000 more police officers, and boosting funding for support services to build confidence in the justice system.”

He revealed that £450 million invested to speed up the justice system was already having an impact, with outstanding magistrates’ cases falling by around 80,000 since last summer and crown court cases at pre-Covid levels.