Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Stern review of rape victims: Recommendations

Baroness Stern's review of the treatment of rape victims in England and Wales makes 23 recommendations on how police, prosecutors and government could improve the way reports are handled. The recommendations include:

  • Government should report annually to Parliament on the progress being made in how police forces and prosecutors are implementing official guidance on how to handle rape cases
  • A network of independent "sexual violence advisers" should be funded around England and Wales to support a victim from the moment they make a complaint
  • The report backs the government's expansion of Sexual Assault Referral Centres to every police area by 2011 - and says that some police forces need at least two. It says the centres work best where they are jointly run by the NHS, police and local government
  • The NHS should take responsibility for forensic medical examiners, rather than the police. Victims should always have a choice of either a male or female examiner
  • Lady Stern urges the government to look at schemes in France and the Republic of Ireland where victims have their own lawyer representing them in court, rather than leaving them as purely a witness in their own case
  • The Home Office and Ministry of Justice should aim to ensure that criminal justice statistics, such as rates of offences and prosecutions, are always accompanied with sufficient explanation to make sure they are properly understood and not open to misinterpretation. Lady Stern made this recommendation because of widespread confusion over the rate of successful rape prosecutions
  • More should be done to publicise to young people the basic elements of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The legislation revised and modernised sex crimes. It created a clearer definition of consent and ensured that both male and female victims are treated legally under the law
  • The Ministry of Justice should launch an independent study into the frequency of false allegations of rape compared with other offences and the nature of such allegations
  • Police chiefs should assess the quality of specialist rape investigation units amid evidence that they can make a substantial difference
  • Police need to improve the quality of some of their video-recorded interviews with victims
  • The National Policing Improvement Agency should help individual forces modernise their computer intelligence systems to better track suspected serial attackers. This recommendation comes after a series of badly handled cases where serial offenders were not arrested
  • There needs to be more sharing of information and co-operation between different local agencies, such as police and social services, to ensure that rape victims are properly cared for
  • The police and prosecution watchdogs should take into account how victims are treated alongside their usual tests for quality of investigations
  • The Crown Prosecution Service should ensure that its guidance on how to handle rape cases is made more widely available
  • Cases should be handled by a single named prosecutor to ensure that the victim knows who is dealing with their case and what progress is being made.

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