Specialist rape court in London aims to improve conviction rates

·2-min read
Snaresbrook Crown Court will offer extra support to complainant (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)
Snaresbrook Crown Court will offer extra support to complainant (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)

A specialist rape court will be set up in London as part of new plans to improve the number of perpetrators brought to justice, the government announced on Thursday.

Under the changes, Snaresbrook Crown Court will offer extra support to complainants who are coming to testify or witness a trial including help from Independent Sexual Violence Advisors on site.

All court staff, as well as police and prosecutors, will also be given specialist trauma training to ensure that they treat women sensitively.

The court will also offer complainants the opportunity to pre-record their testimony to avoid the stress of giving evidence live during a trial.

The measures are a response to calls by London’s Victims’ Commissioner Claire Waxman and others for specialist rape courts to be set up to reduce the lengthy delays – often stretching to years – between a person alleging rape and the case reaching trial.

They are also designed to increase the number of convictions in the wake of official statistics showing that fewer than 2 per cent of all rapes reported to police are currently resulting in an offender either pleading or being found guilty.

One reason for the dismally low figure is the number of complainants who give up on pursuing justice in frustration at the time it is taking and the stress it is placing on them over such an extended period.

Other recent reforms unveiled by the government include changes to the disclosure rules intended to reduce the amount of searching of women’s mobile phone data and to limit the time that devices are held by police.

Attorney General Suella Braverman QC said that police and prosecutors were also being told to focus more intensively on perpetrators and claimed that efforts to improve the way rape cases are pursued were already achieving results.

“The number of suspects charged by the CPS is increasing and the time it takes for the CPS to reach a charging decision is down, securing justice for more rape victims, faster,” she said. “We won’t rest until public confidence in the criminal justice system is restored.”

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