Introduce free & independent lawyers for victims of rape - #Lawyers4RapeJustice
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The criminal justice system in England & Wales is causing further harm to already traumatised victims of rape and failing to protect the public at large from people who rape.
Only 1 in 71 (1.4%) reported cases are prosecuted - an all-time low - and even fewer are convicted, so perpetrators walk free most of the time.
Most people who bravely report rape are failed and left suffering from the compounding trauma of being assaulted and then not being given a fair shot at justice.
Victim-survivors’ rights are routinely being violated without proper consideration of what is relevant or proportionate in an investigation, with only 1 in 8 people who report their rape feeling that investigations are fair.
Many victim-survivors say their experience of the justice system had a detrimental impact on their mental health. Some felt blamed by investigators for what happened to them, and 79% felt they were not treated with dignity.
The ‘justice’ system is causing so much harm to those who decide to report that many have lost confidence in it and would not report again. Others choose not to report at all because they’ve heard about bad experiences from friends and family.
Rape Justice Activist, Bonny Turner can attest to this.
Bonny reported two of her cases to the police in the UK (without a lawyer) and in Norway (with a lawyer), so she knows what difference having a lawyer can make.
“Not only did my experience of reporting rape without a lawyer cause me undue distress, but it also violated my legal rights and may have harmed my case. Without legal support, I was subjected to a six-hour interview with no break or food, and I felt obligated to waive my privacy rights and hand over my mobile data, and medical and counselling notes. Given I was traumatised and developing PTSD, I wasn’t in a position to consider my best interests or to freely give informed consent.”
It didn’t have to be this way.
The experience Bonny had of reporting rape to the police with a lawyer in Norway has shown her what the process should be. All victims of rape in Norway (regardless of immigration status) are entitled to a state-funded, independent lawyer.
“Before going to the police, my lawyer explained my rights, the reporting process and what to expect, and when I was ready, he accompanied me to the police station. At every step of the way, he had my back, intervening at key points to ensure the police were properly carrying out their duties and upholding my rights. The trauma-informed lawyer also looked out for my wellbeing, ensuring I had food and breaks and that I wasn’t being harmed further by the process.”
Bonny’s experience in Norway, research from other countries with a similar legal system, and a recent pilot scheme in North-East England demonstrate that independent legal advice and advocacy for people who report rape improves their experience of and confidence in the justice system.
The Home Office estimates that the annual cost of sexual offences to England and Wales is £12.2 billion. Providing free lawyers to victims of rape would only cost a minuscule 0.03% of this (£3.9 million) and would lead to savings for other public services, such as the NHS and social welfare.
Change is our only option.
Join Lawyers for Rape Justice in our call for all victims of rape in England & Wales to be offered legal support by a national scheme of lawyers that will:
- provide free and independent legal support for victim-survivors of rape who have decided to report to the police. This should include the guardians of child victims and adults with intellectual or communicative disabilities (unless the guardian is a key defence witness); and
- offer trauma-informed advice on best practice for police and other criminal justice practitioners, including specialist training and a professional advice helpline.
Please sign and share this petition to urge the Government to provide people reporting rape with legal support through the criminal justice system.
Together, we can bring about #Lawyers4RapeJustice!
Credit: Video directed by Sheila Nortley.
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