Rape victims to meet prosecutors in proposal to reduce abandonments

Cropped shot of unrecognizable woman sitting with her psychologist - iStockphoto

Cropped shot of unrecognizable woman sitting with her psychologist – iStockphoto

Rape victims will have the legal right to face-to-face interviews with prosecutors before their trial as part of the government’s bid to reduce drop-out rates.

The new duty of Crown prosecutors will form part of the victims’ code which is enshrined in law under a bill due to be considered by the Commons on Monday.

It is designed to ensure that victims have the opportunity to raise any concerns or questions about their trial so that they can be addressed and provided with the necessary support to guide them through the criminal justice system.

Up to 60% of rape victims drop charges, blaming the trauma of having to testify in court, trial delays of an average of two years and worries about their personal lives being scrutinized by police and prosecutors.

Rape victims are also more likely to be tried as 80% of defendants appear in court pleading not guilty, compared to 40% for all other types of crimes.

In addition to the new meetings commitment, the bill gives victims the statutory right to challenge decisions not to prosecute, simplifies the complaints system and ensures that they will be informed of the progress of their case – from the when they report the crime, until the offender is released from prison.

However, ministers stepped back from a previous proposal which would have required Crown Prosecution Service lawyers to meet with victims before deciding whether to prosecute, giving them a chance to fully grasp the suffering and impact of the crime.

Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, said: ‘Going to court as a victim can be daunting and confusing, so meetings with the prosecution team will help answer their questions and allay their concerns. Helping rape victims give their best testimony will ensure that we put more of these despicable abusers behind bars.

Max Hill KC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “Victims deserve, and rightly expect, to be supported, informed and treated fairly. They are central to our business and our ability to successfully prosecute.

“This new meeting offer between adult victims of rape and other serious sexual offenses and a member of the prosecution team complements the service that we are developing for all victims through our victim transformation program.

“We hope this will help give victims the confidence to attend court and highlight the support they have when they testify.”

“The Justice They Deserve”

The move is part of the government’s move to reverse the fall in rape prosecutions, where conviction rates have fallen to a record low 1.3%, as the number of sex offenses hit an all-time high. nearly 200,000 in the year to September 2022.

To combat low conviction rates, rape victims are also offered the option of pre-recording their evidence on video to save them the trauma of presenting it in court. The number of independent sexual and domestic violence counselors will increase by more than 40% over the next three years to bring the total to more than 1,000.

Operation Soteria, where police focus on suspects’ behaviors before, during and after reported attacks rather than testing victim credibility, is also being rolled out nationwide after proving its worth in pilots .

Victoria Prentis, the Attorney General, said: “Survivors of these crimes have suffered enough trauma before the legal process even began.

“Having the chance to connect with the prosecution team and ask questions about the legal process can make all the difference in what can be a very daunting experience. That’s why I welcome this new initiative and hope that it will allow many more victims to claim the justice they deserve.

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