Refuge responds to joint inspection of the police and CPS’s response to rape
Responding to the joint inspection of the police and CPS’s response to rape, led by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI), Ruth Davison, Refuge CEO said:
“The report today from HMICFRS and HMCPSI again illustrates that survivors of rape are being routinely failed by the criminal justice system. This is the phase 2 report of the inspection, building on the findings from phase 1 which concluded the criminal justice system fails to put survivors at the heart of building strong cases when it comes to rape. Refuge welcomes this report and supports the inspectorates’ call for widespread reform, something Refuge and our colleagues across the Violence Against Women And Girls (VAWG) sector have long called for.
Survivors tell us that they often feel they are the ones being investigated or standing trial. This must change, as must the trend that survivors are experiencing lengthy court delays, which compound and extend their trauma. That survivors are having to wait on average more than two years (706 days) for trials to start after reporting to the police is unsustainable and wrong. This is an unacceptably long wait for a survivor to access justice.
Refuge is also concerned that survivors of rape are describing harrowing experiences in court and sharing that they feel they are not given a voice in the criminal justice process. Again, this adds to their trauma. Improvements must be made by both police and prosecutors when communicating with survivors to ensure they are supported and informed. A statutory requirement should be introduced for criminal justice professionals to take all reasonable steps to advise survivors on details and progress of criminal proceedings and to seek views on modifying or discontinuing charges.
The government has committed to ensuring survivors are ‘better heard, served and protected’, and this report shows that those actions are desperately needed.
There is an upcoming legislative opportunity with the Victims’ Bill to ensure survivors are better supported and that the criminal justice system is more trauma-informed. We urge the government to take this opportunity, and ensure these much-needed changes are backed up by including a duty in the Bill to commission community-based specialist support services with full, ringfenced funding.
Specialist services such as Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs) and Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs) have proven to be key in ensuring survivors feel supported within the justice system, we must ensure every survivor has access to this specialist support.”
Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.
Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org