Court backlogs puts victims at risk, says former Army sergeant’s victim

A former Army sergeant from Cornwall, UK, who was previously convicted for threatening to kill one woman and attempting to suffocate another during sex, would have been unable to attack the second victim if not for the delays in the justice system. The former sergeant, Martin Underwood, had been drinking when he assaulted his first victim in 2021. Underwood struck her with a phone, pushed her in the stomach, and threatened to kill her and then himself with a knife.

The first victim described Underwood as controlling and dangerous, stating that she underwent extensive therapy as a result of the abuse. Underwood’s second victim was attacked in August 2022 following an argument during sex. She revealed that Underwood had held a plastic bag over her face and only removed it when she agreed to his demands.

Due to the delays in the court system, the victim of the knife offense, Elizabeth Hudson, spoke with the BBC to express that delays in the court system are causing distress and misery for victims. Elizabeth shared her experience of being slashed with a knife by Underwood, and the panic and misery she endured in the months that followed. It took 159 days for Underwood to appear in court after the attack.

The majority of Cases go through the system in just under a year, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice, but Underwood’s trial was delayed due to a barristers’ strike, pushing the date back to 18 months after the attack. During this period, Underwood attacked his second victim. The second woman was attacked 488 days after the first attack. Underwood was eventually held on remand, and he entered guilty pleas at a subsequent court hearing.

The Ministry of Justice spokesperson described Underwood’s attacks as “appalling” and stated that the government was investing in tackling the court backlog. The CPS authorized charges against Underwood within days of South Yorkshire Police submitting a full file of evidence. Underwood was ultimately jailed 671 days after the attack on Elizabeth.

Despite the jail sentence and the restraining orders, Elizabeth expressed feeling let down by the justice system, emphasizing that the impact on victims’ lives isn’t taken into account. The impact on their lives isn’t taken into account, because if it was, it wouldn’t have taken nearly two years.