This article references sexual violence.
Under proposed legislation, rape victims can have a face-to-face meeting with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) ahead of their court proceedings to help them understand the legal process and the support available to them.
It's hoped that this measure will enable more victims to “give their best evidence,” as rape victims are more likely than victims of other crimes to go through trial proceedings. This is due to the fact that rape trials have significantly higher ‘not guilty’ pleas.
Victoria Prentis KC, Attorney General, welcomed the measure, saying, "Survivors of these crimes have been through enough trauma before the justice process even begins.
“Having the chance to connect with the prosecution team and ask questions about the court process can make a world of difference to what can be a very daunting experience.”
Jade Blue McCrossen-Nethercott has first-hand experience with navigating the UK's legal system – and knows how daunting it can be. She alleges that she was raped in March 2017. The trial was due to start in March 2020 but was postponed to November 2020 following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. She was later informed that the defence had requested more evidence, which was confusing given that the trial date had already been set.
Jade sought out a meeting with CPS to discuss the trial. “I had numerous questions,” she tells GLAMOUR. “The police officer was dire and just could not answer anything.”
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Jade reached out to Claire Waxman, London's first Victims Commissioner, who helped secure a meeting with the CPS. “It wasn't easy to access or to arrange,” explains Jade. “But with the poor service level with the police and lack of engagement and communication from them, I literally just had to go straight to the horse's mouth, and that was the CPS.”
“I finally felt in control and had a decent fundamental understanding of what to expect in the courtroom.”
She had a three-hour call with the CPS, which “relinquished three years of anxiety and stress.” Jade says, "I finally felt in control and had a decent fundamental understanding of what to expect in the courtroom.
“It filled me with so much confidence that they were actually taking my case seriously.”
Jade, like many people navigating the UK's complex legal system, had prepared for the trial by reading dense court documents, watching dated Ministry of Justice videos, and researching relevant charities, such as Rights of Women.
Giving evidence in a courtroom was a “terrifying prospect” for Jade. She also tried to organise a pre-trial visit to the court, but the police “were having none of it.”
“Where would I be waiting? Where would I walk through? Who will I be seeing?” were some of the questions Jade had for the police. When she didn't get answers, she took it directly to the CPS.
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Ultimately, the CPS dropped the case over claims she had an episode of a rare sleep condition called “sexsomnia” – a decision they later apologised for. “I was just so grateful that I had that opportunity to speak to somebody beforehand,” Jade reflects. “Not that my case got to trial in the end, but I was very much prepared. I was feeling okay about it.”
The new proposed legislation will mean that all victims have access to proper information from the CPS ahead of their trial – they won't have to fight for it as Jade did:
“I'm really, really thankful that this is something that's going to be a new obligation for them, that they have to meet adult rape victims ahead of trial. It is just baffling that it's not already the case.”
You can learn more about Jade's case by watching Sexsomnia: Case Closed? on BBC iPlayer.
For more information about reporting and recovering from rape and sexual abuse, you can contact Rape Crisis on 0808 500 2222.
If you have been sexually assaulted, you can find your nearest Sexual Assault Referral Centre here. You can also find support at your local GP, voluntary organisations such as Rape Crisis, Women's Aid, and Victim Support, and you can report it to the police (if you choose) here.
The resources and helplines you need to know.