Seven out of 10 child sex abuse victims are not given proper support when they appear as witnesses in court, a damning report reveals today.
Some are forced to take annual leave from their jobs so they can give evidence about historical abuse, the study shows.
Forty per cent of complainants are not given the chance to give evidence remotely or behind a screen, which would spare them the ordeal of facing their alleged abuser, according to the report by Westminster’s all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
The cross-party group’s chairwoman, Labour MP Sarah Champion, said: “This report exposes the Government’s poor record on achieving justice for survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
“Survivors should not face an ongoing battle to find out information about the court process or to get the special measures they are entitled to, enabling them to give evidence with confidence.
“Without these steps, is it any wonder many people drop out of the process altogether?
“The Government is failing to give survivors confidence that their case will get a fair hearing at trial.
“Even worse, once the court process is over survivors say they feel abused by the very system they hoped would support them.”
Ms Champion is MP for Rotherham – the South Yorks town where at least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013, according to a bombshell report in 2014.
She set-up the APPG in May and its inquiry heard from nearly 400 victims.
They highlighted a string of issues with the criminal justice system, including professionals’ poor communication with complainants about the court process and trial outcomes, the challenges survivors face in attending as witnesses, the absence of after-court support and the “byzantine” process of applying for compensation.
The issues are laid bare in a report – Survivors’ Experience of Court and Applying for Compensation – published today.
It recommends moves to restore confidence in the justice system, including: giving witnesses and survivors the same rights as jurors when they receive a court summons; mandatory training in trauma for court staff; overhauling the Criminal Injuries and Compensation Scheme so victims are not blocked from applying or left with new “trauma” by the process.
Ms Champion added: “It is a scandal that the Government has yet to reform the compensation scheme.
“It’s rules are out of date – for example, we now know that some survivors are forced into criminal activity as part of the grooming process.
“This should not be a bar on them accessing compensation once that the abuse has been proven.
“The whole scheme needs comprehensive reform so that victims and survivors are put at the centre of the process because, right now, it is all about saving the Government money – not supporting people to rebuild their lives shattered by crime.”