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Study reveals only one in five sexual offence survivors satisfied with criminal justice experience

2 Dec 2020

Only one in five victims of sexual offences in England and Wales were satisfied with their criminal justice experience, a new Loughborough University-led study has revealed.

Dr Olivia Smith, a Criminology and Social Policy expert in Loughborough University’s School of Social Sciences and Humanities, hopes her research findings will raise awareness and lead to positive changes across the UK, specifically the introduction of a national system of legal advocacy for sexual offence victims.

The report, titled ‘Evaluation of the Sexual Violence Complainants’ Advocate Scheme’, contains the findings of an online survey undertaken by 586 victims of sexual offences in England and Wales (233 reported to the police and 353 did not).

The victim survey data revealed that the current situation is untenable. Most victims that reported offences said they were treated sensitively by the police at the point of reporting, but the rest of the process was insensitive and unfair.

The survey found:

  • Only 12% of victims feel that police investigations are fair and proportionate
  • 77% feel that victims are regularly cross-examined on their medical and sexual history (only 5% disagreed with this statement)
  • Only 1 in 5 (21%) felt the criminal justice system treats victims with dignity
  • Only 1 in 5 (21%) were satisfied with their criminal justice experience

Victims who did not report told Dr Smith and the research team, which comprised of Ellen Daly, a PhD student at Loughborough University, and Cath Easton, an independent researcher, about their fear of intrusive and victim-blaming evidence and those that did report confirmed in some instances this was the case.

One victim, who reported in 2017 and whose perpetrator was acquitted at trial, said: “My sexuality was used against me, naked photos of me were shown to the court, his barrister even said to the jury he had just made a 'mistake' and that he could be any of their sons, or brothers.”

Find out more at the Loughborough University website