Multi-award-winning Director Sheila Nortley has produced a series of films telling the stories of sexual assault victims when going through the criminal justice system. This work was part of a new study led by Loughborough University which revealed only one in five victims of sexual offences in England and Wales were satisfied with their criminal justice experience.
The research was conducted by Dr Olivia Smith, a Criminology and Social Policy expert at Loughborough University’s School of Social Sciences and Humanities. She hopes her research findings will raise awareness and lead to positive changes across the UK, specifically the introduction of a national system of legal advocacy for sexual offence victims.
The report, titled ‘Evaluation of the Sexual Violence Complainants’ Advocate Scheme’, contains the findings of an online survey undertaken by 586 victims of sexual offences in England and Wales (233 reported to the police and 353 did not).
One victim, who reported in 2017 and whose perpetrator was acquitted at trial, said: “My sexuality was used against me, naked photos of me were shown to the court, his barrister even said to the jury he had just made a ‘mistake’ and that he could be any of their sons, or brothers.”
Victims also revealed the impact of the criminal justice system on their mental health and many victims stated they would not report again.
The report was commissioned by Kim McGuinness and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, which developed the Sexual Violence Complainants’ Advocate [SVCA] scheme.
Currently, victims in England and Wales have no right to legal support and occasionally rely on charities if they need help understanding the complicated rules around their rights.
Dr Smith is now campaigning for an amendment to the Government’s Victims of Crime Bill, which will have a second reading in Spring 2021, to add in legal advocacy for serious sexual offence victims.