Rape victims will receive enhanced support at three Crown Court centres under a new pilot scheme launched by this Conservative Government as part of efforts to drive up prosecutions and convictions and make sure victims get the justice they deserve.
All court staff, police and prosecutors working on cases will receive specialist trauma training, and expert at-court support, such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, will be available for victims.
Working closely with the police, CPS and judiciary, the Government will use any learning from the pilots to complement ongoing efforts to tackle the backlog and increase the volume and speed of cases going through the system.
Leeds, Newcastle and Snaresbrook (London) Crown Courts have been chosen as they are currently dealing with a higher-than-average number of sex offence cases.
Courtrooms will also be equipped with new video technology and be able to take advantage of the rapid rollout of pre-recorded cross-examination for victims of rape. This spares victims, subject to a successful application to the court, the stress of giving evidence during a live trial and has already been introduced at 37 courts.
The initiative comes one year on since the Government published its Rape Review Action Plan, with an update showing that considerable headway is being made in increasing convictions and improving support for victims.
Alongside this, the Government is continuing to roll out Operation Soteria, a new approach to investigating rape that focuses on the suspects not the victims. It involves academics working with police forces to examine their handling of rape cases and make recommendations for operational changes. It is already in action in five police force areas and will soon be rolled out to a further 14 forces by September.
Over £460 million is being invested in victim support over the next three years, increasing the amount spent per year by 2025 by 92 per cent compared to 2020/21.
This builds on the publication of a draft Victims Bill which will amplify victims’ voices and make justice agencies more accountable for the service they deliver.
Commenting, Iain Stewart MP said:
“Rape is a horrific crime that can have life-long devasting impacts on its victims, which is why it is essential that victims get the best support possible as they seek justice.
“That is why I am really pleased to see this Conservative Government pledging a £460 million investment in victims services and introducing new pilots to boost support for rape victims in court, just as new data reveals that rape convictions are up two thirds over the last year.
“This will make sure victims get the help and support they need as those who harm them are put behind bars.”
Commenting, Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab said:
“Rape convictions are up two thirds over the last year and cases are being completed five weeks quicker.
“But we are restless to go further, and these pilots will focus on improving support for victims, tackling the backlog and reducing delays.
“We’re also rolling out pre-recorded evidence faster, recruiting 1000 sexual violence advisors, developing a 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the justice they deserve.”
Commenting, Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“Rape is an abhorrent crime and I want to see a transformation in the way these investigations are handled to make sure that all victims have the best support possible throughout the entire process.
“By making police investigations less intrusive and putting victims at the forefront, we can improve the way in which the police handle these cases, so that the brave victims who come forward are not let down and the criminals responsible are put behind bars.”