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Today (25 May) the Government has announced details of its proposed Victims’ Bill, which aims to improve support for victims and pave the way for the first-ever Victims’ Law.
Within the legislation are measures that Rape Crisis welcomes, including:
- Victim’s views being sought at regular points during their case
- Greater accountability placed on agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police for the service they provide to victims
- An easier process for victims to make complaints about the service they receive
- Prosecutors obliged to meet victims before certain trials
- National rollout of the ability for victims to pre-record their cross examination
If implemented, these steps will give survivors a voice in a space where their needs often go unheard. We know that regular communication is an important part of keeping victims and survivors engaged with the criminal justice process, and a meeting with prosecutors before a trial will encourage better relationships with the CPS.
We have long called for greater accountability from justice agencies. Those who report rape should expect a level of professionalism, empathy and respect from the police and CPS, if this is not upheld victims absolutely have a right to make a complaint. We’re pleased to see the complaints process has been made easier, with clearer routes of redress if victims and survivors don’t receive the support they are entitled to. It’s important to note though, that the increased scrutiny of justice agencies is underpinned with more support and training for them. The police and CPS can be expected to act within the best interests of survivors when they have had adequate and specialist training and are provided with the resources needed to give each rape case the attention and diligence it deserves.
There are also measures within the legislation that are a cause for concern.
The draft bill calls for a statutory definition for Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA). We are concerned that a statutory definition will impact the service that ISVAs can deliver by limiting the scope of the role and putting restrictions on it. The ‘one size fits all’ approach fails to recognise the needs of survivors from different backgrounds and disregards the expertise of ISVAs who are working within a range of communities.