New government pilot aims to boost support for victims of rape in court

An online victim survey for people who have experienced sexual violence has also been launched

<p>Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) will be available for victims as part of the pilot</p>

Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) will be available for victims as part of the pilot

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has today launched a new pilot project that aims to boost support for victims of rape in court.

Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) will be available for victims in Crown Courts in London, Leeds and Newcastle, while all court staff, police and prosecutors working on rape cases will receive specialist trauma training.

Victims can also apply to the court to submit pre-recorded footage of cross-examinations, sparing them the stress of giving evidence during a live trial.

This new video technology has already been introduced at 37 courts.

The government is also rolling out Operation Soteria, a “new approach to investigating rape that focuses on the suspects not the victims”.

This will see academics working alongside police forces to examine their handling of rapes cases and make recommendations for changes.

An online victim survey for people who have experienced sexual abuse is also being launched today for the MoJ to ascertain what support services victims need.

The changes follow a recommendation made by inspectors and the Justice Select Committee for specialist courts to be established to process sexual violence cases in a bid to reduce a backlog of cases.

London, Leeds and Newcastle have been selected for the pilot as they are currently dealing with a higher-than-average number of sex offence cases.

The news comes almost one year after a damning watchdog report found that dangerous people “are going free” because rapes are not being prosecuted.

An inspection found that the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lacked the capacity and specialist training to properly investigate the rising number of cases.

In the time period covered by the report, under three per cent of rapes recorded by police resulted in a successful prosecution - just 1,439 out of 56,000.

And in February, a government report indicated that rape victims were waiting an average of 706 days from reporting an offence to a case reaching court, a factor which may influence a victim’s decision to pursue a case.

While the government has blamed court delays on the pandemic, barristers cite a lack of funding.

Rape Crisis have said that while they welcome the developments, the government’s ambition to double the number of adult rape cases reaching court by the end of this parliament “is still very far off”.

It adds: “In the meanwhile, victims and survivors continue to have traumatic experiences of the justice system while rapists go free.”

In a statement, Amelia Handy, policy lead at Rape Crisis England & Wales, says: “It is clear that there is much activity underway to improve parts of the justice system for victims and survivors who have been subjected to rape and sexual abuse, but we haven’t yet seen the implementation of these developments reflected in the data.

“Whilst we appreciate that positive change is never instant, figures show that a very large majority of rape survivors are not getting their cases taken into the courtroom. We are particularly concerned about the persistent issue around criminal justice agencies failing to collect data on survivors who face inequalities based on their race, class, sex, sexuality, gender and many other factors.

“Women and girls need reassurance that allegations of rape and sexual abuse will be taken seriously, and one of the key ways this will be achieved is by their cases progressing from the police to the CPS, and then crucially the CPS committing to take rape cases into the courtroom.

“Rape Crisis England & Wales and our member Centres will continue to support victims and survivors independent of whether they report or not.”

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