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Support for Victims and Witnesses

Being a victim or a witness to a crime is not easy, but, with your help, we work hard to bring offenders to justice. Throughout the justice process we will support you and treat you with dignity.

The aim of witness care units is to provide a single point of contact for Victims and Witnesses, minimising the stress of attending court and keeping  victims and witnesses up to date with any news in a way that is convenient to them.

Witnesses are essential to successful prosecutions and we are committed to making the process as straightforward as we can.

Read the fact sheet about witness care units

Find out more about being a witness

Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 updated the law, much of which dated back to 1956.

The main provisions of the Act include the following:

  • Rape is widened to include oral penetration
  • Significant changes to the issue of consent
  • Specific offences relating to children under 13, 16 and 18
  • Offences to protect vulnerable persons with a mental disorder
  • Other miscellaneous offences
  • Strengthening the notification requirements and providing new civil preventative orders

Find out more about how we prosecute sexual offences

London's top prosecutor challenges social assumptions on rape victims

30/01/2012

The capital's Chief Crown Prosecutor is calling for a greater debate on ways in which society can challenge, combat and dispel the assumptions and myths associated with rape victims.

At a talk today (January 30) at City Hall, London, Alison Saunders said: "The Crown Prosecution Service in London is doing a huge amount of work to improve our performance in this important area. The good news is that the number of unsuccessful cases going through the system in London is dropping.

"One of the biggest challenges for the prosecution in these cases is to challenge pre-conceived jury assumptions that they bring to the trial. This is particularly true in cases where the victim and defendant are known to each other, or where there the victim has consumed alcohol.

"I have today met with practitioners, victims groups and partners to discuss how we can actively challenge these assumptions. Victims can be reticent to come forward for fear of being demonised in court and even in the media. As a society we need to be aware that these myths and stereotypes have the potential to influence court outcomes and ultimately lives."

Over 200 CPS London lawyers are designated as rape specialists. The criteria for becoming a rape specialist is rigorously applied and they receive specific training. CPS prosecutors follow the Merit Based Approach to prosecuting rape cases. This means that the prosecutor's decision is based on an objective assessment of the evidence, ignoring stereotypical assumptions about the victim's behaviour, despite the fact that these assumptions may be held by members of the jury who are ultimately responsible for deciding the outcome of a trial.

Mrs Saunders added: "We have done a lot of work with our prosecutors dispelling these stereotypes internally and our performance in prosecuting these cases is improving. I believe this is partly due to our dedicated rape charging centre and in 2012 we will be launching the London Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit, which will mean all rape cases being managed by a dedicated team of prosecutors. We are working hard with our partners, particularly the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), to improve the way in which we deal with these cases. I am determined to ensure that victims are confident in coming forward and reporting these crimes."

Ends

Notes to Editors

  1. A number of myths are laid out in the CPS Rape Manual, which can be found here:
    http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/rape_and_sexual_offences/societal_myths/
  2. For media enquiries and interview bids call the CPS Press Office on 020 3357 0906; Out of Hours Pager 07699 781 926
  3. The DPP has set out what the public can expect from the CPS in the Core Quality Standards document published in March 2010.
  4. The CPS consists of 13 Areas in total, each headed by a Chief Crown Prosecutor (CCP). In addition, there are three specialised national divisions: Central Fraud Division, Special Crime and Counter Terrorism, and Organised Crime. From 1 September 2011, The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) prosecution function was transferred to the CPS.  A telephone service, CPS Direct, provides out-of-hours advice and decisions to police officers across England and Wales.
  5. In 2010-2011 the CPS employed around 7,745 people and prosecuted 957,881 cases with 116,898 of these in the Crown Court, and the remaining 840,983 in the magistrates' courts. Of those we prosecuted, 93,106 defendants were convicted in the Crown Court and 727,491 in the magistrates' courts. In total 86% of cases prosecuted resulted in a conviction. Further information can be found on the CPS website.
  6. The CPS, together with ACPO and media representatives, has developed a Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media. This sets out the type of prosecution material that will normally be released, or considered for release, together with the factors we will take into account when considering requests. Read the Protocol for the release of prosecution material to the media.