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22 May 2015

St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre

NEWS RELEASE

Contact: Charlotte Batra 07932 919573

May 18th 2015

Barrister shadowing scheme will help improve support for people who report rape

St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) has today launched a shadowing scheme jointly with barristers from the Northern Circuit that will enable St Mary’s team of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) to improve the support they provide to those who report rape as well as building better working relationships with the Independent Bar.

The role of the ISVA is to support victims of rape and sexual violence through the criminal justice system.  It is not just about being at court during the time of the trial it may also involve familiarising the client with the court, explaining what will happen and why, well before the case commences.  Clients may also need support with issues to do with their family, housing or employment.  The ISVA will provide support before, during and after the trial, reassuring and building confidence throughout.

The aim of this scheme is to provide ISVAs with the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by barristers in preparing and presenting their cases in order that they can then better inform and support their clients during a court case.

Barbara-Louise Webster, of 7 Harrington Street Chambers in Liverpool, has worked with St Mary’s SARC in developing the scheme.  She said: “In some court centres, St Mary’s ISVAs have met with resistance to their presence with the victim either in court or in the video link room, during the giving of evidence, perhaps fearing that they are there to coach the victim. 

“This scheme will hopefully better educate those within the court system of the important role ISVAs have to play in supporting and building the confidence of  these witnesses so they can provide the best possible evidence in court. “

Under the shadowing scheme, members of the Bar in each court centre, whether prosecuting or defending, will be asked to permit an ISVA to shadow them at court during the trial of a case where the ISVA has no involvement.

Bernie Ryan, St Mary’s Centre Manager, said: “All our ISVAs have received comprehensive training and this scheme will enhance their understanding of the court process and the role of the independent Bar.  We also hope it will raise the profile of ISVAs among court staff, barristers and judges.”

Ian Rushton, Temporary Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, said: "We greatly value the work of ISVAs in supporting people through the criminal justice system and fully support this shadowing scheme.  I am sure it will help increase knowledge and understanding about the court process among ISVAs but also ensure greater awareness of the importance of their role in supporting people before, during and after a court trial."

His Honour Judge Stockdale, Honorary Recorder of Manchester, added: "The presentation in court of cases involving allegations of sexual assault is never a straightforward matter.  Each case raises its own challenges for prosecution and defence.  I welcome the introduction of this shadowing scheme, under which ISVAs will become acquainted at first hand with the whole court process.  It can only assist them in their valuable work at St Mary's."

The shadowing scheme follows on-going discussions and awareness raising sessions hosted by St Mary’s SARC with the Crown Prosecution Service, judges and barristers from the Northern circuit on how to better support people making complaints of rape and sexual assault. 

St Mary’s Young Person’s Advocate Yvonne Haworth will be the first member of the team to take part in the scheme today, Monday 18th May.

End


Media Contact: Charlotte Batra, Public Relations, 07932 919573

Notes to Editors

St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre was the first Sexual Assault Referral Centre to open in the UK.  It provides a comprehensive and co-ordinated forensic, medical, counselling and aftercare service to men, women and children living in Greater Manchester or Cheshire who have experienced rape or sexual assault, whether this has happened recently or in the past.

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