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Specialist rape courts to be piloted

Three Crown Courts will now have dedicated courtrooms to support rape victims as part of a pilot scheme.

By October, Leeds, Newcastle and Snaresbrook Crown Courts will have specialist courtrooms providing extra support to rape victims during court appearances.

The staff working on the cases – including court staff, police and prosecutors, will receive trauma training, while expert support, such as Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, will be present at court.

The courtrooms will also be equipped with new video technology enabling them to fully take advantage of the pre-recorded cross-examination for victims of rape – this latter scheme has been introduced in 37 courts so far and is due to be available nationwide by September.

A recommendation for specialist courts was set out by the Justice Select Committee. The three courts chosen are currently dealing with a higher than average number of sex offence cases.

The courtrooms will also however continue to hear other cases outside of rape and sexual violence offences.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab said: “Rape convictions are up two thirds over the last year and cases are being completed 5 weeks quicker.

“But we are restless to go further, and these pilots will focus on improving support for victims, tackling the backlog and reducing delays.

“We’re also rolling out pre-recorded evidence faster, recruiting 1000 sexual violence advisors, developing a 24/7 helpline and improving collaboration between police and prosecutors to ensure victims get the justice they deserve.”

Five forces are also currently involved in Operation Soteria (Avon and Somerset, the Met, Durham, South Wales and West Midlands) – which involves a suspect-led approach to investigating rape and sees academics working with officers, making recommendations for operational changes.

This is due to be expanded to an additional 14 forces by March of next year. By June, there will be a new national operating model for all forces on the investigation and prosecution of rape cases.

Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill and National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Rape and Adult Sexual Offences, Chief Constable Sarah Crew said: “Police and prosecutors are doing their part - working together - to make sure we improve the experience of those affected by these devastating crimes and support more rape victims to see justice.

“The effective investigation and prosecution of rape is one of the most important challenges facing the criminal justice system. We are optimistic that our actions through our Rape Strategy, Joint National Action Plan and Operation Soteria pathfinders are having an impact

“The roll out of Soteria to 14 more police forces and three more CPS areas is welcome news as more parts of the country will continue to make improvements and learn lessons. Soteria offers an opportunity like no other to get to the bottom of the issues impacting successful investigations and prosecutions so we can get more positive outcomes.”

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