Sexual Offences: Children and Vulnerable Adults

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 14th March 2019.

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Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey Independent, Stockport

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he has taken to dispel rape myths and stereotypes from juries in line with the commitment in the Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People National Group Progress Report and Action Plan 2015.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We want rape victims to have the confidence to report these crimes, knowing they will get the support they need through the system and that everything will be done to bring offenders to justice.

The CPS have almost doubled the number of specialist prosecutors in their dedicated Rape and Serious Sexual Offence Units, enhanced training and improved the support they offer victims through criminal proceedings. Specialist prosecutors are trained to deal with the challenges involved in prosecuting these offences, including the impact of issues of consent and of rape myths and stereotypes.

The Senior Judiciary recognise that rape myths could have an impact on the trial of sex offences. The 2018 Crown Court Compendium builds on previous guidance which gives judges a model practice direction for the purpose of warning the jury of the risks of stereotyping alleged victims of sexual offences. It gives more examples of possible directions, and lists situations where jury directions may be needed.

Given the potential impact on trial fairness, the judiciary rightly maintain that any course of further action in this area should be well considered and informed by empirical evidence. The President of the Queen’s Bench Division has, therefore, commissioned empirical research with juries which will help inform future support, guidance and training needs on myths and stereotypes.

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