Rape Crisis welcomes proposals for criminal justice reform
Rape Crisis welcomes Harriet Harman MP's proposed new clause to the Prison and Courts Bill. Any proposals aimed at reviewing and improving the criminal justice process in relation to sexual violence should be positively received and considered.
In 2001, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI) conducted a joint thematic inspection into the investigation and prosecution of rape offences. Since this time there have been numerous reports and recommendations detailed extensively over the years including 'Without Consent: A report on the joint review of the investigation and prosecution of rape offences', the Stern Review 2010, which made detailed recommendations referring to judiciary, CPS prosecutors and sentencing, and most recently ‘Seeing is Believing’, which amongst its recommendations specifically referenced sexual history, recommending that barristers be required to:
- challenge all late Section 41 applications;
- ensure that prosecuting counsel robustly opposes all applications for the admission of Section 41 material;
- work with prosecuting counsel to anticipate rape stereotypes which may come into cases, whether or not introduced by the defence, and;
- use the model directions to dispel them in outlining the case at the start of the trial.
While more victims and survivors than ever before have been coming forward to seek both specialist services and criminal justice in recent years, the vast majority still choose not to report to the police. Through our frontline experience of supporting women and girls who've been raped, sexual abused and sexually assaulted, we know that among the reasons for this is their fear of the criminal justice system, including the treatment they might receive in court.
Singling out an aspect of the court process for reform is not going to resolve the criminal justice deficit for sexual violence survivors on its own. We hope this proposal together with recent reforms announced by the Ministry of Justice and its ongoing review into of the use of complainants' sexual history in court represent an emerging cross-party consensus on the urgent need to address this situation holistically.
Rape Crisis is committed to working in partnership to ensure all sexual violence survivors receive the criminal and social justice they need, want and deserve.