Independent legal representation is a necessity for victim-survivors

Tina Skinner, Olivia Smith

Research output: Other contribution


With only 1.6% of reported rapes resulting in charges or summons to court (see also: Crime outcomes in England and Wales, year to December 2020: data tables), and over 80% not even being reported to the police, on 18 June 2021 HM Government admitted that the criminal justice system is failing victim-survivors.

Greatly increased requests for digital (e.g., phones) and third party (e.g. school or mental health records) evidence from victim-survivors after the R v Allan case in 2017 had intensified victim-survivor scrutiny, and reduced police charging and court summons to their current low. With sexual offences causing immense distress and harm to those victimised, and victim-survivors not having the confidence with the criminal justice system due to aggressive questioning, leaving them feeling as if they are on trial, it is perhaps not so surprising that few victim-survivors report to the police. The criminal justice system is not only failing victim-survivors, but also harming many of them.

In previous publications (see How Rape Myths Are Used and Challenged in Rape and Sexual Assault Trials and Evaluation of the Sexual Violence Complainants’ Advocate Scheme) we called for independent legal representation for victim-survivors to reduce the trauma associated with needless scrutiny of victim-survivor’s personal lives.

Independent legal representation aims to provide legal support, aid, and advice to complainants to prevent aggressive and inappropriate questioning; help victim-survivors with data consent forms; and prevent further damage to victim-survivors’ mental health. Whilst we welcome HM Government’s pledge to consult on - and pilot access to - legal advice to rape victim-survivors, this delays rolling out the service across England and Wales, when there has already been an evaluation of such a service in England, the system is already proposed in Scotland, and Ireland already has independent legal representation, as does much of Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
PublisherInstitute for Policy Research, University of Bath
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • rape
  • legal representation
  • courts


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