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Train publicly-funded advocates in handling victims of serious sexual offences

Last updated: 12:28pm 15 December 2018

Publicly-funded advocates will have specialist training in handling victims before taking on serious sexual offences cases.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.44

Our verdict

Victims of crimes of a sexual nature may find undergoing a court case particularly intimidating and traumatic. The right of those accused of a crime to challenge evidence against them must be balanced against the need to avoid taking advantage of vulnerable individuals. A report by the Institute for Policy Research at Bath University found that:

“Criminal justice responses to rape and sexual assault in the UK have long been criticised for treating victims with suspicion and subjecting them to aggressive questioning”

This policy promises to ensure that publicly-funded advocates who take on cases involving serious sexual offences will have received specialist training in how to handle victims.

In September 2018, the government published its Victims Strategy which “sets out a criminal justice system wide response to improving the support offered to victims of crime”.  The strategy contains details of “specialist training for all advocates who question witnesses in cases of a serious sexual nature involving vulnerable adults and children”. According to the government:

“The training programme delivers the manifesto commitment: “Publicly- funded advocates will have specialist training in handling victims before taking on serious sexual offences” and goes beyond that commitment. Training is available to all advocates, not just those working on publicly funded cases.”

The training website, however, states that “training will become mandatory…”, with no indication of precisely when it will become mandatory. We’ll be consulting with the Inns of Court College of Advocacy and with government to confirm whether or not this training is now a mandatory requirement. If it is, we’ll move this to ‘done’, but for now we’re marking it as ‘in progress’.

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