New technologies and training in courts to promote support for rape victims

Anti-rape protesters stand with signs.

The trial is part of the government’s effort to improve rape victims’ experiences with the system (Image: Getty)

Court officials, police officers and prosecutors receive special trauma training to be more sensitive to rape reports.

It has now been a year since the country’s annual rape report was released, which revealed a horrific revelation 1.6% conviction rate for the assaults that led to an indictment.

But the “vast majority” of rape allegations never went through a day in court.

The government has since pledged to improve these worrying numbers and today announced some new measures to that end.

In addition to training the professionals the victims must interact with, a room in three major courts will be upgraded to have the technology to conduct pre-recorded cross-examination.

This means that, away from the stress of a live trial, an alleged victim can request permission from the court to be cross-examined.

The Crown Courts of Leeds, Newcastle and Snaresbrook were selected to test this new scheme as they are currently dealing with a higher than average number of sex crimes cases.

This pilot will be operational in October, but several similar programs have been rolled out across the country.

Demonstrators stand in a crowd with signs.

Activists say much more needs to be done for rape victims and survivors (Image: Getty)
Victims, survivors and activists have long claimed the justice system is failing them (Image: Getty)

For example, 37 courts already allow victims to pre-record their responses to the defense.

There are also ongoing efforts to improve the system for victims during other parts of the process.

In some cases, police keep suspected victims’ phones for investigation.

This has been criticized by activists who say it is an invasion of privacy and a stressful inconvenience for vulnerable people who should be able to reach out to loved ones for support.

Five police forces have started offering backup phones if a suspected victim’s phone needs to be kept for more than 24 hours.

That policy will expand to 14 forces by March next year.

The Government stressed that “work continues to reduce intrusive requests for third-party phones and recordings such as therapy notes”.

Emily Hunt, the government’s independent adviser on rape review, said: “Rape is a terrible crime that can have lifelong, devastating effects on its victims.

“I don’t know if we can ever do enough, but right now we’re in an incredibly different place than we were a year ago. Fees are finally starting to rise.

“But none of those involved think where we’re at is good enough – because it’s not even remotely good enough – and to me that’s probably the most important part of where we’re at a year later: doing better, but always to advance even further.”

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Justin Scacco

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