Wiltshire

Wiltshire sex crime referral figures almost double in year

The number of referrals for victims of sex crimes in Wiltshire has almost doubled following publicity over the Jimmy Savile scandal, it is claimed.

The county's Police and Crime Commissioner said the scandal "has led to a sharp rise in the workload of professionals who support survivors".

Between April and September 2012, there were 95 referrals but in the same period in 2013 there were 180.

Angus Macpherson called for more people to be trained to help victims.

Mr Macpherson was speaking at the annual meeting of the Wiltshire Rape and Sexual Assault Centre in Trowbridge.

Care and understanding

He paid tribute to the independent sexual violence advisers (ISVAs) and independent domestic violence advisers who guide victims through the criminal justice system, saying "they do an excellent job".

The ISVA role was commissioned by Baroness Stern through the Home Office Violent Crime Unit in 2005.

Advisers are trained to care for survivors' needs and to ensure they receive care and understanding.

They also help survivors understand how the criminal justice process works, including what will happen if a report is made to the police, and the importance of forensic DNA retrieval.

Victim forum

But Mr Macpherson said: "Given the personal and distressing nature of sexual violence, victims may not necessarily speak to specialist workers.

"As a society we should ensure that the people to whom victims are likely to speak have sufficient knowledge and training."

He acknowledged that many survivors of sexual violence were unwilling to report what had happened to them.

"Many victims of crime find it hard to understand the criminal justice process, such as who is responsible for charging, what happens at different court hearings.

"This is particularly so for victims of sexual violence.

"I heard of a case recently where sentencing was postponed on three occasions.

"The perpetrator had pleaded guilty and the victim wanted closure so she could get on with her life.

"We need to ask whether such delays can be avoided."

Mr Macpherson said his office had recently held its first victim forum, bringing together those with the expertise to support victims and witnesses in Swindon and Wiltshire.

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