‘Victims are - and always will be - front and centre in our vital work’: RASSO prosecutors on what #ItsNotOk means to them
Jill MacNamara – RASSO prosecutor
I feel passionately about working collaboratively with our partners across the criminal justice system to bring offenders to justice. This is why I became a District Crown Prosecutor on the Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) unit in the Southwest.
I take huge pride in my work and although there are huge challenges in prosecuting these complex cases, it is hugely rewarding to help secure justice for a victim of these awful crimes.
I work across a wide geographical area and regularly engage with courts, the police and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs). Close working with our partners is vital to build strong cases and ensure that a victim is being effectively supported.
Working with ISVAs is one of the most important partnerships and can transform a victims’ experience of the criminal justice process. They are seminal in raising issues and challenges that victims are facing, and together we are able to find solutions.
For example, at a recent meeting, ISVAs raised a query about special measures and asked how the various measures could operate with one another - for example screens and live link. We then explained special measures could be used together to ensure a victim is able to give evidence in a way that is best for them. For example, a victim could give evidence from a separate room or location to the court room where the trial is taking place. Their image on the screen could then be screened from the defendant. This would mean a vulnerable victim would not have to go through the trauma of seeing their attacker.
Our area includes the Avon and Somerset Constabulary which is a key part of Operation Soteria, which is a government initiative to transform the way rape cases are handled. We are absolutely committed to driving long-lasting change and I wholeheartedly believe that working closely with the police from the outset is the key to this.
In the South West, we have focused on our service delivery to victims and are using the additional resource to enhance our communication with them. Additional support both pre- and post-charge will be available and we have recruited a dedicated Victim Liaison Officer to be a specific point of contact for victims, for correspondence and to offer and arrange a meeting with the CPS reviewing lawyer.
Our goal is ultimately to provide reassurance and inspire confidence in the criminal justice system. We want all victims and witnesses to rest assured that the CPS takes rape and sexual assault very seriously and that we will always seek to charge when the legal test is met and we are dedicated to seeing more cases in court.
Victims are - and always will be - front and centre in our vital work.
Sharon Howard – RASSO prosecutor
Working as a specialist Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Prosecutor is not for everyone, but I knew instinctively that it was the job for me because I am driven by the desire to be part of lasting change.
Before I trained as a lawyer, I had a keen interest in the work of Rape Crisis and the exemplary work they do.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill QC, has described rape and serious sexual offences as ‘abhorrent crimes which can have a profound and lasting impact.’ I see the impact these awful crimes have first-hand every day and #ItsNotOk. This is what motivates me. I know that my job as a RASSO prosecutor makes a difference.
During Sexual Violence and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week, I want to reassure you that the CPS is here. We are dedicated to this work and to working with the police to build strong cases and see more cases reach court. We are committed to securing justice for you and for the public.
With every conviction, I hope that more victims will feel able to come forward with confidence. This is the driving force behind everything that we do.'