Legal and Court Proceedings

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?

Having reported rape or sexual abuse to the Police, given your statement about what happened and attended a medical examination, the Police will prepare a file of evidence.  If the offender has been arrested and interviewed a file of evidence will be submitted for consideration 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 (charges). 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 vulnerable or intimidated. These refer to a range of measures including giving evidence via video link or from behind a screen.

 All courts have dedicated witness liaison staff who will ensure victims are looked after not just during a trial but before hand they can faciliate visits to familarise victims and their families with the building and can make arrangements such as seperate entrances and exits from the offender or their supporters and seperate waiting areas. 

 Whilst the press are allowed to attend the Court hearing, the abused persons details (name/address) cannot be published in a newspaper.

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