The criminal justice authorities in Northern Ireland should review how the system handles sexual violence cases, a victims’ charity has said.
Victim Support NI (VSNI) has written to both the justice department and the lord chief justice setting out a number of reasons why “now is the time to take action”.
The open letter has also been supported by Nexus NI, Women’s Aid Federation and the Mens Advisory Project.
The letter requests that the review take account of victim experiences from reporting, through to the decision to prosecute, the court process itself and how the low level of convictions for rape and sexual violence should be addressed.
Any review should also consider how the current processes “impact negatively on victims/survivors,” and “how adequate and effective support for victims/survivors can be secured throughout the whole of the process”.
VSNI chief executive Geraldine Hanna said: “Recent increased public interest in the criminal justice system and how victims/survivors of sexual crime are treated is to be welcomed as an opportunity to bring to light and respond to concerns that we, as organisations who work directly with and for victims/survivors of sexual crime, have held for many years.
“While there have been changes within the system, driven by a greater understanding of the impact sexual crime has on individuals, there is still a considerable way to go.
“We have written to the permanent secretary in the Department of Justice and to the lord chief justice to formally request an immediate independent review of how the criminal justice system handles sexual violence cases.
“However, no review should be completed without victims/survivors’ voices and so we have requested that the review body should include representatives of victim-centred organisations who are acutely aware of how the system is experienced by victims/survivors.
“We are also asking the public to support our request by completing a brief online survey which can be found here.”