CPS to have new obligation to meet adult rape victims ahead of trial
Rape victims will be given the opportunity to meet the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) staff involved in their case ahead of a trial in the latest move to guide them through the criminal justice system
- prosecuting teams will offer to meet victims face-to-face following a not-guilty plea
- this will help victims better understand the process and support available
- Victims and Prisoners Bill begins next stage of passage through Parliament today (19 June 2023)
This will give victims the chance to discuss what they can expect in court, better understand the process and be talked through the support measures available to them such as appearing via video link. It will also provide victims the opportunity to have their voice heard and discuss any concerns ahead of trial.
This obligation will be cemented into an updated Victims’ Code, the principles of which will be put on a statutory footing through the Victims and Prisoners Bill. The bill begins its next stage through Parliament today.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:
"Going to court as a victim can be daunting and confusing so meetings with the prosecution team will ensure they can have their questions answered and worries eased.
"Helping rape victims to give their best evidence will ensure we put more of these vile attackers behind bars."
Figures show that rape trials have significantly higher not guilty plea levels compared to other crimes – meaning a greater proportion of victims are put through the stress of giving evidence in court. Fewer than one in five adult rape trials arriving at Crown Court receives a guilty plea, compared to 60% of all crime.
Victim groups say that many rape survivors find the idea of giving evidence in court daunting, which can lead to them dropping their support for the case. By providing greater support ahead of trial, the prosecution team will be able to address any specific concerns or questions victims may have, reducing the risk of them withdrawing from the process.
This measure, alongside the roll out of pre-recorded evidence and more Independent Sexual Violence Advisers, will help victims feel supported within the justice system and reduce the number of cases that never reach trial.
Max Hill KC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said
"Victims deserve, and rightly expect, to be supported, informed and treated fairly. They are central to our cases and our ability to bring successful prosecutions.
"This new offer for a meeting between adult victims of rape and other serious sexual offences and a member of the prosecution team complements the service we are developing for all victims through our Victim Transformation Programme.
"We hope it will help give victims confidence in attending court and highlight the support available to them when giving evidence."
Today’s announcement will form part of a full consultation the Victims’ Code which will take place after the Victims and Prisoners Bill receives Royal Assent taking on board views raised during its passage through Parliament.
Justice Minister, Edward Argar, said:
"We want to ensure that rape victims are supported throughout the criminal justice system and know what they can expect when their case goes to court, so this announcement is an important step forward.
"Alongside the Victims and Prisoners Bill our broader reforms will help ensure victims get the support they need and the confidence they need to stay the course throughout the criminal justice process and help bring their attacker to justice."
Victoria Prentis KC, Attorney General, said:
"Survivors of these crimes have been through enough trauma before the justice process even begins.
"Having the chance to connect with the prosecution team and ask questions about the court process can make a world of difference to what can be a very daunting experience. That is why I welcome this new initiative and hope it means many more victims can claim the justice they deserve."
The Victims and Prisoners Bill builds on the wider government work to improve support to them.
Alongside this the government is transforming how rape investigations are handled to avoid disproportionate scrutiny of victims and their accounts. Operation Soteria sees academics working with police forces and the CPS to look at their handling of rape cases and develop new operating models to be rolled out nationwide.
The government will also more than quadruple funding for victim support services by 2025, compared to 2010 and boost the number of Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisors by more than 40% over the next 3 years taking the total to over 1,000.