Specialist rape courts to be set up in England in pilot scheme to improve poor conviction rates

The dedicated courtrooms will be kitted out with video technology so victims would be able to give pre-recorded evidence. Credit: PA

Three specialist rape courts are to be set up in England as part of a pilot scheme to improve poor conviction rates for serious sexual offences.

Dedicated courtrooms to deal specifically with rape cases will be set up in courts in Newcastle, Leeds and Snaresbrook in London.

According to the Justice Secretary, the rooms will be kitted out with video technology so victims would be able to give pre-recorded evidence and courtroom staff will be given specialist trauma training.

There will also be independent sexual violence advisers on hand to support victims through the process.

The sites were chosen because they currently deal with a higher-than-average number of sex offence cases, the Government said, although victims will not be able to select to have their case heard at these three locations specifically.

The announcement marks a year since the Government's landmark Rape Review, in which it apologised and said it was "deeply ashamed" of the downward trends in bringing sexual offenders to justice.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said establishing the courts was "morally the right thing to do" and he hopes they will help give women "confidence in the justice system".

The Government said it will use any learning from the pilots to help increase the volume and speed of cases going through the criminal justice system.

It will also roll out the suspect-focused method of investigating rape cases, currently being used by five police forces, to a further 14 constabularies in the next year.

The Government said £460 million will be invested in victim support over the next three years, which will help fund more than 1,000 Independent Sexual and Domestic Violence Advisers.

Attorney General Suella Braverman QC said: "The huge programme of joint working between the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police shows some encouraging green shoots of improvement."

The most recent CPS figures show tentative progress in obtaining justice for rape victims.

Data from October 1 to December 31 2021 showed a 4.6% increase in the volume of suspects being charged with rape - 550 in total, up from 526 the previous quarter.

The number of rape convictions also increased from 407 to 467 during that time.

But there were just 1,557 rape prosecutions in the 12-month period for 2020-21, down from 4,643 for 2015-16.

And Home Office figures released in April showed that the lowest charging rate of all offences continues to be for rape, with just 1.3% of 67,125 offences recorded by police in 2021 leading to a prosecution.

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