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Improving the experience of rape victims in the Justice System

|News, Sexual offences

Improving the experience of rape victims who enter the justice system has been the subject of pioneering joint working between CPS East Midlands and voluntary and public sector groups.

Rape prosecutors are committed to giving victims of these offences a voice in court, so the CPS recognised it needed to become more accessible as an organisation to help change perceptions. It also recognised that improvements to the service, including to case outcomes and the proportion of cases we prosecute, would only be made by working collaboratively. This is why the CPS five-year strategy for Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO 2025) focuses on developing constructive relationships to build trust and public confidence.

Charlotte Caulton-Scott, Head of CPS East Midlands' Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Unit, said: “A vital aspect of the RASSO 2025 strategy is about how we work as a team with survivors of sexual abuse and victims' groups. We want to place survivors of sexual abuse at the heart of our prosecutions. If we get this right, we will see better outcomes for the survivor, CPS and justice as a whole. The public will better understand our work and the challenges that we face. We believe providing the right support to victims in these cases support will lead to increased convictions, as survivors are better prepared and supported to give their evidence at court. I very much hope that will increase public confidence and trust in the CPS.”

Prior to 2017, CPS East Midlands rape prosecutors had no working relationships with IVSAs (Independent Sexual Assault Advisors) and CHISVAs (Children’s Independent Sexual Violence Advisors). Then, in 2017, a working group was set up to improve better communications between all parties. Matters progressed well, and through these meetings CPS East Midlands was invited to be part of the Nottingham Sexual Violence Action Network (SVAN).

In Nottingham, the Sexual Violence Action Network (SVAN) was created in 2017 to provide a collective approach to overcoming the complexities and challenges that survivors of abuse face in seeking justice. CPS East Midlands is part of the group, alongside other important statutory and voluntary organisations. CPS East Midlands helped create the Network’s “Your Journey: sexual violence - a survivors' guide to support and reporting” booklet,  to provide sexual violence survivors with information on how to access local specialist  support, details of how their case might progress and understanding the wider criminal justice process. Rape survivors were part of the editorial board and the booklet is now offered to all survivors of sexual abuse in Nottingham. The SVAN also raises awareness of the importance of consent, works to debunk rape myths and encourages survivors of sexual abuse to access support and report sexual violence.

Charlotte Caulton-Scott continued: “Listening to victims and victims groups is one of the most important things for the CPS to do. Working with other professionals as part of this close-knit network has transformed the service we all provide to survivors of rape. We now understand more about their experiences and others supporting survivors understand more about what we need to do to prosecute. This means we are prosecuting more cases and are able to provide more effective support to survivors throughout the whole of the case. We have found our communication with victims has improved and we have seen an increase in our conviction rates.”

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