I have recently been asked on my views following my experience of the Criminal Justice System involving a serious sexual assaults case. More specifically:
- Do I have faith/trust in the CJS
- Did I have a positive experience of the CJS
- Would I recommend/encourage victims of sexual violence and/or domestic violence to make use of the CJS
My answer to all three questions is a resounding NO
I write the following based solely on my own personal experience of the CJS – they are purely & simply my own thoughts & opinions.
An important point to note is that this is a SYSTEM. A system which is made up of 3 different services:
A failure in any one of those sectors means the system has failed & therefore the victim within the system has been failed. It becomes irrelevant if the Police provide an outstanding service & the CPS are excellent in their duties if the courts then fail to deliver, as the overall result becomes a failure.
I often hear Police officers saying they are frustrated when victims of SV and DV are reluctant to come forward & report their abuse. What needs to be understood though, is that as a victim I see & experience the CJS as an entire system. Yes, it has different sectors within the system & each service is only responsible for their own area, but please remember that for me, the victim, it is one system. If I anticipate or foresee the final outcome to be a failure then I have to question the logic of entering the system in the first place. What is the point of me reporting to police if I don’t believe I will achieve a positive outcome at the conclusion of the process?
In my own personal experience through the CJS I initially had a very negative experience with Police from the moment of first reporting. Conversely, the involvement of the CPS was incredibly positive & finally the court process I found to be extremely traumatic & distressing, and even though the outcome of the case was positive in that it resulted in a conviction, I perceive the court process to have been very negative. My overriding view of my CJS experience is therefore a negative one.
A few months ago there was a newspaper article about a male rape victim who was too afraid to report his attack to Police for fear of not being believed. A police officer commented on Twitter that he didn’t understand why victims are still too afraid to come forward & report when times have changed & reporting has improved. He stated that it was not productive for victims to be afraid of something that may never happen. Sadly however, it does still continue to happen …….
My initial involvement with Police fell into all the old pitfalls & clichés, those which as a victim we are so very afraid of & which we are assured no longer exist within the Police Service….
On initial reporting of my serious sexual assault I was informed by a police officer that he didn’t believe me & that I had derived sexual gratification from the experience. It was as if we had stepped back 20+ years, instead we were halfway through 2014. The process couldn’t have started any worse.
There are far too many inconsistencies within the CJS & until the system, as a whole, can produce regular positive outcomes across all 3 services, it will continue to be viewed as failing victims. Until that changes, in my view, victims will remain reluctant to come forward.