The Trauma of Trials

The legal process is tough on all claimants, but particularly those who have experienced traumatic crimes such as child sexual abuse. These cases suffer significantly due to regular delays to the legal process. For Imara service users, it takes on average 215 days between the date of disclosure and the first day of the criminal trial. Reasons for these delays include a lack of judges and courtrooms, defence delaying tactics and requests for access to the victims’ phone and social media. Research suggests that such delays cause further trauma to victims through heightened stress, precluding victims from receiving justice and healing.

On Thursday 16th July, the National Police Chiefs Council announced reform to the mandatory ‘digital strip search’ which required rape and sexual assault victims to sign to hand over all of their mobile phone data in order for their case to be investigated, even in cases where digital communications played no part. This blanket requirement for victims created a barrier to seeking justice, discouraging victims from reporting and continuing their case. It was also disproportionate to the requirements for suspects, maintaining the narrative of victim blaming and further violating victims just as they are attempting to recover and heal.

This reform of the mandatory digital data extraction consent forms is a welcome first step in the interest of justice and minimising the retraumatisation of the criminal justice process for rape and sexual assault survivors.

We are pleased to share this report completed for Imara which reviews the experience of the legal system for survivors of child sexual abuse and recommends potential solutions to bring reform.

July 17th, 2020