Reporting rape or sexual assault to the police and having to go to court is a big concern and worry for lots of victims. It is perfectly normal to feel worried or concerned about the process. The information in this section explains the basic legal and court proceedings and different staff that will be encountered along the way.
If you have any questions or concerns about the police or court procedures, you can discuss them with the Blue Sky Centre staff, or your specially trained police officer (if you have already reported to the police) or an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA).
What is the next step after reporting a rape or sexual assault to the police?
The Police will record a unique crime reference for your complaint and allocate a named officer to investigate it. This does not mean that only one police officer will be involved, depending on the complexity of the case there may be a number of staff involved: some dealing with you as the victim and others focusing on the offender, the scene, CCTV enquiries etc. The investigation is likely to be supervised by a Detective Sergeant or Detective Inspector.
The Police will record your evidence, either by way of written statement or, more usually, by video recording. Facilities for that exist here at the Blue Sky Centre. The Police will take further statements from those who have relevant information, arrange a forensic medical examination if that is appropriate, and conduct all other material enquiries. They will interview the offender. When their investigation is complete and if it appears that there is a case to answer they will prepare a file of evidence to be considered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The CPS will apply a two fold test namely: is there sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction at court, and also, whether it is in the public interest to prosecute the offender. Usually in serious sexual offence cases there will be little problem in considering that there is a public interest in prosecution, but there are circumstances (for example involving very young offenders) where this may not be the case.
If the CPS decide there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest they will authorise the Police to charge the offender with the most appropriate charge(s). At this stage consideration will be given to the question of keeping the offender in custody or bailing them. If there are concerns that the offender/s will commit further offences, fail to attend court, interfere with the case or they have already committed offences whilst on bail it is likely that a court will be asked to detain the offender in Prision immediately and until the trial. In other circumstances bail conditions may be applied to the offender for example where to live, not to contact any witness which if they breach will render them liable to further arrest and remand in custody.
The CPS may arrange a meeting (a pre trial meeting) with the victim in which such matters as how you feel about giving evidence in court and special measures can be discussed.
Application can be made to a Judge to allow ‘special measures’ if a witness might be considered to be vulnerable or intimidated. Such measures include giving evidence via video link or from behind a screen, reducing the number of people in court who can see the victim to the minimum for justice to be served (jury, judge and barristers).
All courts have dedicated witness liaison staff who will ensure victims are looked after not just during a trial but beforehand. They can faciliate visits to familarise victims and their families with the building and the courtroom which can help a great deal. They can also ensure that the victim and anyone accompanying them enters and leaves the building other than through the public access and are able to wait before giving evidence in a private area.
It is important that court proceedings are held in public and so both the media and general public may attend. However, by law, details that would identify the victim of rape cannot be published.