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Attrition of Cases of Sexual Offences from The Criminal Justice System of Sri Lanka; A Pilot Study


M. H. M. A. Izzath ,

District Base Hospital, Dambulla, LK
About M. H. M. A.
Office of the Judicial Medical Officer
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Sarathchandra Kodikara

University of Peradeniya, Peradeniya, LK
About Sarathchandra
Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medicine
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Introduction: Attrition is a process by which cases dropout from the criminal justice system failing to reach a guilty verdict. The conviction rates in cases of sexual abuse are reported to be very low despite the rise in the number of reported cases, which indicates a higher rate of attrition. This paper reports a retrospective analysis of attrition in sexual offences by identifying the stages and characteristics associated with the loss of cases from the time of initial complaint to a verdict in court.


Methods: The research (retrospective descriptive cross-sectional study) utilized the police reports (n=427) of alleged sexual offences in the major crime registries in three police stations in the Polonnaruwa district from 01st of January 1998 to 31st of December 2007. The entries as of 01st of January 2020 were analyzed retrospectively.


Results: Most of the victims were female 94% (n=403) while all the perpetrators were male in this study. The observed types of alleged offences included 57% (n=242) rapes, 23% (n=98) grave sexual abuse, 14% (n=59) unlawful apprehensions, 4% (n=18) incest, and 2% (n=10) unnatural offences. As of 1st of January 2020, 21% (n=88) of cases have ended up in a conviction in a trial while 33% (n=141) of cases are pending at courts, and 46% (n=198) of cases were dropped out of the legal system. The overall rate of attrition was 46% (n=198) while 20% (n=87) at high courts, 16% (n=69) at magistrate courts and 10% (n=42) at police investigation level. There was a significant association demonstrated in attrition with age of the victim, age gap between the victim and perpetrator, delay in reporting of the offence and type of offence.


Conclusion: A considerable number of cases are dropping out of the legal system at different attrition points and pending in courts for a long period of time. Further study revealed a significant association in attrition with characteristics of sexual offences.

How to Cite: Izzath, M.H.M.A. and Kodikara, S., 2022. Attrition of Cases of Sexual Offences from The Criminal Justice System of Sri Lanka; A Pilot Study. Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka, 10(2), pp.7–11. DOI:
Published on 31 Dec 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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