Government announce extra £5 million for rape victim support services

More money will be spent on support services for victims of rape and sexual assault, ministers have pledged.

The Government said it would provide an extra £5 million to fund programmes so victims get the help they need, making their experience of the criminal justice system simpler and less distressing.

From next year, £12 million a year will be given to 96 rape support centres around the country by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

This is up from around £7.2 million provided over the last year which pays for services for adult and child victims of sexual violence including counselling and face-to-face advice sessions, the department said.

It plans to spend £1 million recruiting more independent sexual violence advisers who act as a link between the victims and police or other criminal justice bodies and support services.

There are plans to set national minimum standards to make sure the level of support is consistent.

There are also plans to enshrine in law the support victims are entitled to – with plans expected to be put through a consultation next year.

A revised victims’ code – which will set out the minimum level of service expected from the criminal justice system – will also be published in early 2020.

The news comes as the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary lead a private meeting in Downing Street on Wednesday morning, to speak to victims of sexual violence and ask how the criminal justice system can be improved.

Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said: “Complainants of rape and sexual assault who have the courage to report their experience demonstrate immense bravery and must be given all the support they need so that justice can be done.

“I very much welcome this additional funding but there is much more to do, including improving the way police and prosecutors handle these horrific crimes.”

The charity Rape Crisis said it was “encouraged” by the announcement.

An estimated 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, which is the equivalent of around 3.4 million female victims and 631,000 male victims, according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Justice minister Wendy Morton MP said the money was a “vital boost” of services for victims of such “horrific crimes”.

Meanwhile, the Government has announced Nicole Jacobs will be appointed as its first Domestic Abuse Commissioner.

Ms Jacobs will take on the role after being the chief executive of charity Standing Together Against Domestic Violence.

She said: “I intend to raise the voices of victims and survivors of all ages, status and background and ensure that we shine a light on practice that fails them.”

Her job will be to “stand up for victims and survivors, raise public awareness and hold both agencies and government to account in tackling domestic abuse”, according to minister for safeguarding and vulnerability Victoria Atkins.

The independent Office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner will be made a statutory body and publish reports on its findings.

The number of domestic violence killings has hit a five-year high, figures obtained by the BBC this month showed.

Plans for new legislation to protect domestic abuse victims are expected to be re-introduced in the new parliamentary sessions after the Queen’s speech, the Prime Minister said.

The Domestic Abuse Bill was among those introduced but delayed when Boris Johnson suspended parliament.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.

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