Rape victims will receive enhanced support at three Crown Courts under a new pilot scheme launched by the government in a bid to drive up prosecutions and convictions.
Rupert Matthews, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, welcomed the news, saying everything possible should be done to ease the victim's journey through the criminal justice system.
"Rape and sexual violence are devastating and heinous crimes which can leave an indelible blight people's lives. Victims show immense courage coming forward to report such a traumatic and intensely personal crime and I can only imagine how this feels.
"Victims need to be treated with dignity and respect, the system and practitioners within the criminal justice system need to be empathetic and sensitive and most of all victims need to be protected and supported. Our criminal justice system needs to deliver an end to end seamless support for victims, which creates trust and confidence. It must also bring more offenders to justice.
"Despite the best efforts of those involved, victims may be further traumatised by the way in which the police are required to investigate not only the immediate events of the incident, but sometimes also to dig deep into victims' backgrounds and private lives. Victims are in danger of losing their privacy if their backgrounds are examined in great detail - even more so if their mobile phones, laptops or other devices are taken away for lengthy examination.
"We are all aware that the decision whether or not to progress a case to court does not happen quickly. Meanwhile, the victim is left wondering what, if anything, is going to happen. And we are not talking about a few weeks, but months or even years.
"This process must be speeded up. Not at the expense of justice obviously, but not at the expense of the victim either.
"I welcome this pilot and I look forward to the findings. Hopefully they, aligned with the Victims Bill, will herald a step change in victim care.
"It's clear to me that we need more specialist officers; improved timeliness; better, more sensitive engagement with victims, so that feel supported and protected. The approach to evidence gathering needs to change so we are not stripping victims of their dignity and rights to privacy. CPS lawyers are overwhelmed - but we need to speed the process up.
"As a Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the East Midlands Criminal Justice Board, I will call for all of this. But I want to make it clear, my comments are not aimed at individual police officers and staff who do a remarkable job. They are not aimed at lawyers who are professional and abide by the rules. But the system, in seeking justice and complete impartiality for everyone has become somewhat unwieldy, not helped by Covid restrictions.
"Something needs to change and it needs to happen quickly. I hope this pilot prompts that."