Report: The Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence
THE JUSTICE RESPONSE TO VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE: CRIMINAL TRIALS AND ALTERNATIVE PROCESSES
14 December 2015
In its Report The Justice Response to Victims of Sexual Violence: Criminal Trials and Alternative Processes (R136), the Law Commission completes a review of trial processes in sexual violence cases and makes recommendations for change. It considers whether a non-criminal process is a viable alternative way of dealing with certain incidents of sexual violence, where that is desired by the victim, and puts forward a proposal to give effect to such an alternative. It also suggests that victims should have wraparound support throughout their time in the justice system and proposes the creation of a commission against sexual violence which would be responsible for leading and coordinating the provision of support to victims of sexual violence.
The Law Commission makes a total of 82 recommendations across three distinct areas. Those recommendations include the following:
Trial process and the courts
• There should be a limit on the amount of time it takes for criminal proceedings involving sexual violence to get to trial.
• Less traumatic methods of giving evidence at trial should be made available to complainants of sexual violence.
• All judges who sit on sexual violence trials should receive special training.
• A specialist sexual violence court should be piloted and future consideration should be given to whether proceedings in that court should or should not be heard in front of a jury.
• Government should put in place a legal and policy framework to give effect to an alternative process that could operate entirely separately of criminal trial.
• The process would provide for a victim to complete a programme that addresses the harm caused by the sexual violence and that facilitates discussion with and reparation by the perpetrator, if appropriate.
• It would be run by accredited, expert providers.
• There would be some flexibility as to how the process is run by each provider but nationwide standards would ensure the safety of participants and cases could be rejected if the provider assessed them as unsuitable based on public safety risk or risk to the victim.
• If this process was successfully completed by a perpetrator, the incident of sexual violence could not form the basis of a subsequent criminal prosecution.
Support for victims
• Government should develop training and education programmes for all those who interact with sexual violence victims in a professional capacity and should also consider a national accreditation programme.
• A sexual violence commission should be established to coordinate support services for victims and to promote communication and consultation across the sector, and between government-based and community-based support providers.
• The commission should also be responsible for carrying out research, delivering training and education programmes, and accrediting and monitoring the providers of the alternative process.