1.35In this part we set out the issues that are examined in this Report and our approach to addressing those issues.
1.36We begin by looking at the processes that occur at trial and pre-trial and considering whether those could be improved. We do not look at Police investigation and charging decisions, although as noted in Chapter 3, this area may require further analysis.
1.38Finally in this Report we also consider whether more can be done to support victims so that they are in the best position possible to be able to engage with the criminal justice system.
1.39In writing this Report, we have also given thought to a number of other considerations and “scope” issues.
1.42This Report focuses on victims of sexual violence, as a distinct group of complainants of a particular kind of criminal offending. There are many other distinct groups of victims who can be singled out. These include children, victims with disabilities or special needs, and other victims who, because of their circumstances or features unique to them, may be classed as “vulnerable”.
1.45We have elected to use the term “victim” in this Report to refer to people who have been through an experience of sexual violence. (Where relevant, when referring to a victim who is appearing at trial, we use the term “complainant” or “complainant witness”).
1.46We received submissions and heard from people in consultation objecting to the use of the word “victim”. There are some in the sexual violence sector who find the term “victim” potentially disempowering and who prefer to use the word “survivor” or “victim/survivor”. By our use of the term “victim”, we do not wish to disempower those who experience sexual violence, each of whom will respond to and perceive an act of sexual violence differently. Some people would also choose not to use the term sexual “violence” because, while they might view the conduct in question as an incursion of their most intimate physical boundaries, they might not label it an act of violence. The terminology is important, and we acknowledge these views.
1.47Contrastingly, some have objected to the use of the word “victim” being applied to a person who makes a complaint about criminal offending unless, and until, that criminal offending has been established in a criminal trial resulting in a guilty plea or verdict. We use the term “victim” in the interests of simplicity. We note the widespread use of the term “victim” in policy and legislation (among other things, the Victims’ Rights Act 2002) often in reference to points in time that occur before a criminal trial. Our use of the term is not to be taken as a suggestion that an allegation of sexual violence may be treated as proved before it has been properly tested at trial and a guilty plea or verdict entered.
1.48We use the term “perpetrator” to refer to a person who has, or is claimed to have, perpetrated an act of sexual violence upon another. We use that term for the purpose of simplicity. The term “defendant” will not always fit the context, because sometimes we refer to a person claimed to have committed an act of sexual violence who is not being prosecuted in court. Our use of the term “perpetrator” is not to imply that the person in question is or has been found guilty of an offence of sexual violence.
a broad range of controlling behaviours, commonly of a physical, sexual and/or psychological nature, which typically involve fear, intimidation and emotional deprivation. It occurs within a variety of close interpersonal relationships, such as between partners, parents and children, siblings and in other relationships where significant others are not part of the physical household but are part of the family and/or are fulfilling the function of family. Common forms include:
- violence among adult partners
- abuse/neglect of children by an adult
- abuse/neglect of older people aged approximately 65 years and over by a person with whom they have a relationship of trust
- violence perpetrated by a child against their parent
- violence among siblings.