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The Way Rape Victims Give Evidence Is Changing For The Better

Refinery29 logoRefinery29 19/3/2017 Nick Levine
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The government is introducing new measures designed to make giving evidence less traumatic for rape victims.

From September, rape victims in England and Wales will no longer have to face cross examination in court. Instead, they will be able to pre-record their evidence for a video which will then be shown to the jury.

Elizabeth Truss, the justice secretary and lord chancellor, said today that she decided to bring forward the introduction of pre-recorded evidence in rape trials following a successful testing period. Originally, the government didn't plan to introduce these new measures until 2018.

"There is more we can do to help alleged victims in these cases give the best possible evidence they can give in an environment that is much more suitable than open court. We've been trialling this for children in cases of child sex abuse," she told The Sunday Times.

"What this has led to is a much higher level of early guilty pleas. That has a huge amount of benefit. It resolves the case much earlier for the victim. It reduces the level of trauma for the victim. I want to see that being the standard offer in those cases and that will give more victims the confidence to come forward."

Rape Crisis England & Wales, an organisation which helps women and girls who have been raped or sexually assaulted, said this morning that they "wholeheartedly welcome" the new measures.

"Any measure that reduces the trauma of the criminal justice process for victims and survivors is positive," the organisation said in a statement.

They explained: "While more victims and survivors of sexual violence than ever before have been coming forward to seek both specialist services and criminal justice in recent years, the vast majority still choose not to report to the police. Through our frontline experience of supporting women and girls who've been raped, sexual abused and sexually assaulted, we know that among the reasons for this is fear of the criminal justice system, including the prospect of giving evidence in open court and of cross-examination."

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