PCC Barry Coppinger and SARC Manager Sue Smith with the new video link
Vulnerable sexual violence victims who feel too afraid to appear in court will now have access to a new video link to give evidence.
The remote link at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre for Teesside (SARC) will allow women and men who have been raped or sexually assaulted to give evidence and be cross-examined without entering a courtroom. Previously, if the defendant denied the allegations, victims wanting to proceed with a prosecution may still have to attend court to give evidence.
The remote link was made possible following £10,000 of funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger.
Since the SARC was established in 2007, sexual assault and rape victims from the Cleveland Police area are taken there by specialist officers for support and for any forensic evidence to be recovered. The SARC also supports victims who don’t wish to report to the police.
The new link, which is now fully operational, means vulnerable victims have an alternative way to present evidence, reducing the anxiety and stress often experienced during the court process.
The facility is an addition to a number of special measures for vulnerable victims, including the option of giving evidence from behind a screen or via video link from another part of the court building.
SARC Teesside Manager, Sue Smith said: “SARC works to ensure that people who experience sexual violence and rape get the best possible support available. Sadly, despite improvements and a greater awareness, there are still many hurdles facing victims in the aftermath of a sexual offence.
“The introduction of the Remote Evidence Link (REL) enables vulnerable witnesses to give their evidence without entering the court arena and has the added advantage of specialist trained support workers being available on site.
We are fortunate to have had continued financial support from the PCC and are delighted that he has supported us in obtaining the video link. This additional funding is further indication that the work to improve outcomes for vulnerable victims and witness continues across Teesside.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger said: “Coming forward to report a rape or sexual assault is daunting enough for victims, but the prospect of facing their attacker or being cross-examined in court can be terrifying.
“The live video link to court will be a lifeline for vulnerable victims who are too frightened to attend court and will help to alleviate the stress and anxiety which can arise during a court case.
“I’m pleased I’ve been able to support the SARC with the funding they need to establish the video link and I have no doubt it will make a massive difference for victims in our local area.”
Anyone affected by rape or sexual assault has access to trained crisis workers by telephoning Teesside SARC on 01642 516888. Crisis workers are available 24/7 can help with a range of options, including support to report to the police if that is required.
Posted on Thursday 4th May 2017