Unity004

Unity team spreads the word about their innovative approach

13/10/2010

Prosecutors from Merseyside CPS' Unity team talk about their unique approach

Six months after it was formed, prosecutors from Merseyside's specialist Unity team are issuing a message to continue to raise awareness of the team's innovative approach.

Unity is a joint investigation unit between the police and Merseyside CPS which was set up in January this year to deal exclusively with rape and serious sexual assault cases from across the county.

The co-located team work on cases together from the moment an offence is reported and this joint approach has already seen cases being brought more quickly and effectively through the justice system.

Janet Potter, Senior District Crown Prosecutor for Merseyside CPS and a specialist rape lawyer, said: "Rape is one of the most serious and damaging crimes, and one of the most difficult to prosecute. Finding the evidence to prosecute rape cases is uniquely challenging as rape usually takes place in private with no other witnesses. Even if it is possible to prove to a jury forensically that sexual intercourse took place, prosecutors must also be able to prove that the victim did not consent, and that the defendant did not reasonably believe the victim was consenting.

"When there is conflicting evidence in a case, prosecutors must assess the credibility and reliability of all the evidence. If a prosecutor decides not to take a case to court it will be because there is not enough evidence to prove all the elements of the offence. This decision is not based on whether the prosecutor believes the victim or not, as is sometimes assumed.  All rape cases are reviewed by a team of specialist CPS lawyers in the Unity team who have had training to ensure they prosecute such cases sensitively and robustly, and ignore the myths and stereotypes associated with rape."
 
Janet agrees that going to court can be a daunting experience, but says there are things that can be done  to alleviate some of the witnesses' concerns.

"Unless a defendant pleads guilty, the complainant will almost certainly need to give evidence in court," she said. "Many victims do not want to do this, but there are various special measures we can apply for which may help, such as asking the judge if the complainant can give evidence from behind a screen or via video link from another room in the Court building.

"Rape complainants are also entitled to life-long anonymity regardless of the case outcome."


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For more information about the Unity team contact Sharon King, Group Communications Manager, CPS Mersey-Cheshire, on 0151 239 6465.