A law change is being proposed to ease the distress caused to rape victims while police carry out their investigations. News powers could also be introduced to block the release of certain prisoners.
According to the law change, officers will only be allowed to request personal records from rape victims when strictly necessary in future, the Justice Secretary has told MPs.
Alex Chalk says that under the new law, officers would no longer be allowed to make routine requests for such records, which can make victims them feel as if they are facing interrogation.
It’s one of a number of changes being proposed by the Government as part of its Victims and Prisoners Bill.
It’s hoped the Bill will strengthen support for victims during their involvement with the justice system.
Discussing the changes proposed to support rape victims, Mr Chalk told the Commons: “I can also tell the House that we will bring forward an amendment at the committee stage to block unnecessary and intrusive third-party material requests in rape and sexual assault investigations.
“I know that routine police requests for therapy notes or other personal records can be incredibly distressing for victims, they can feel as if they are the ones under scrutiny.
“Some may even be deterred from seeking support for fear of their personal records being shared. Our Bill will make sure that these requests are only made when strictly necessary for the purposes of a fair trial.”
Powers to block the release of most dangerous prisoners
The Bill would also give the Justice Secretary powers to block the release of the most dangerous prisoners, and introduce a new independent public advocate (IPA) to represent the families and victims of disasters involving public authorities, such as the Grenfell Tower fire or Hillsborough disaster.
On powers proposed to block the release of the most dangerous prisoners, Mr Chalk said the Bill would “impose a new safeguard, a new check and balance in respect of the top tier of the most serious offenders drawn from murderers, rapists, child killers and terrorists”.
He added: “In those cases, where there is a Parole Board recommendation to release a prisoner, the Bill will allow the Secretary of State to intervene on behalf of the public to stay that release to enable ministers to take a second look.”
On creating the IPA, Mr Chalk added: “The IPA will work on behalf of victims. It will be a crucial conduit between them and key public authorities. It will focus resolutely on what survivors and the bereaved actually need, not just what others in authority might assume that they need.
“The IPA will also help victims and bereaved navigate complex processes that most people would find deeply stressful and upsetting, such as investigations, inquests and public inquiries.”
(Source: Manchester Evening News)
(Image: Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street, via Flickr)