The London Victims’ Commissioner, Claire Waxman, has today published recommendations on the London Rape Review with important messages relevant for all victims of rape and specialist support services.
We particularly welcome the recommendation that survivors have access to fully funded legal advice and representation from the time of reporting and including during cross-examination if questions about past sexual history of any other personal material that might be used to undermine their credibility. This doesn’t go far enough as far as we’re concerned – we’d prefer a complete overhaul of how SV trials are conducted with the introduction of a panel of judges rather than the use of a jury and the ending of adversarial cross examination. However, the measures recommended would help to protect survivors’ rights in court and ensure Section 41 of the YJCEA 1999 is adhered to.
MOPAC have also agreed to share the methodology used for the Review with other PCC areas, and Member Agencies may want to engage with their own PCCs to discuss their involvement in any research that flows from this.
An overview of the recommendations:
- To engage with the Review into the Victims’ Code of Practice.
- Trauma-informed training for police.
- Trauma-informed awareness to be shared across criminal justice partners, including the Judiciary, the Bar Council and the Law Society.
- CPS training to include awareness of the neurological impact of trauma on memory.
- Standard directions to jurors to cover rape myths and also the neurobiological impact of trauma on memory.
- To limit the excessive intrusion into personal data through CJS in rape cases, working with the ICO when their recommendations are published.
- The revised pre-trial therapy guidelines to ensure that victims/survivors are not being discouraged from long-term therapy, and that victim/survivors have confidence their records are safeguarded and not used to cast doubt on their credibility. The CPS should only be requesting therapy notes to show the impact of the crime on the victim and not for any other purpose.
- A call for the government to address the delays in rape cases, including a 20 day mandatory time limit for provision of third-party material that victims/survivors have consented to be shared. Also a maximum time to respond being set at three months.
- The Government should amend the Policing and Crime Act 2017 as matter of urgency to create a presumption that all suspects under investigation for domestic abuse, sexual assault or other crimes where there are significant safeguarding issues only be released from police custody on bail. The Government should also amend the length of time suspects can be released on pre-charge bail due to better reflect the length of time these cases take to proceed.
- A reversal of the huge cuts the SV sector is struggling with to ensure there is adequate funding for rape crisis support services and ISVAs to meet demand, with a significant proportion ring-fenced for specialist Black and Minority Ethnic services.
- Government to ensure that victims/survivors of sexual violence can access fully funded legal support to provide independent legal advice and legal representation from time of reporting through to post trial. This is especially required for the use of their personal information and data in legal proceedings and should include legal representation during cross-examination if questions on past sexual history or personal material that undermines credibility has not been restricted.
- The Government should ensure as part of its end-to-end review a commitment from PCCs to commission research similar to the framework used in this London Review, and I am pleased MOPAC are willing to share the methodology. More broadly, the Government should consider how best to collect data from the CPS, Courts and victim support services to ensure there is robust data collection that will provide us with clearer understanding of what is causing these critical issues.