Funding secured by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Cleveland has helped upskill professionals working with victims of sexual violence and abuse.
Pre-trial therapy training has been delivered to more than 150 healthcare and other professionals by charity ARCH Teesside, as a result of NHS England funding secured by Cleveland OPCC.
Training has enabled workers from a number of organisations to deliver therapeutic support to victims of sexual violence without fear of the support – and other interventions – prejudicing a fair trial.
According to one victim, who has benefitted, “Everyone should have access to this support.”
While courts are still coping with a backlog of cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many victims are waiting longer for cases to be listed and to give evidence in court.
There had been fears that some victims were not getting therapeutic support at the earliest opportunity. This was on the grounds that professional intervention could lead to accusations of therapists influencing witness and victim testimonies and therefore dash hopes of a fair trial and securing a conviction.
According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ,) the time it takes cases to reach Crown Court has continued to increase due to delays caused by the pandemic. It now takes cases an estimated 251 days on average to reach crown court.
Latest MOJ figures released for the three months to the end of September 2021 marked a six per cent increase in waiting times compared figures produced for April to June last year.*
Funding of £8,720 secured by the OPCC from the NHS England Sexual Assault and Abuse (SAAS) Fund paid for ARCH Teesside to run expert, practical pre-trial therapy training.
Free training has been delivered to professionals from more than eight organisations including Harbour, Stockton Riverside College, the Bungalow Project, Time for You, the Northern Guild, Teesside University, Alliance and Eva Women’s Aid.
One of Arch’s clients has been waiting for three years for charges of sexual assault, controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship and disclosing a private, sexual photograph to go to court.
Catherine, 38, of Middlesbrough, said: “Without pre-trial therapy I dread to think where my mental state would be.
“I was so scared, confused and couldn’t quite believe the things that had happened in my life.
“My counsellor has been amazing at helping me work through my feelings and emotions regarding this. She has helped me see my value and worth and for that I’m truly grateful.
“Without this service, I genuinely believe I would be a wreck, riddled with my own confused thoughts and blaming myself for everything that has happened.
“Everyone should have access to this support. I feel empowered now to speak my truth and live my life. I see a future that I didn’t before.”
Lisa Russell, Clinical Lead at ARCH Teesside, said: “We have had an amazing response. The ARCH counselling team has so far trained over 150 professionals to ensure all survivors are aware of provision and are able to access therapeutic support from the point of reporting.
“The Pre-Trial Therapy Protocol gives a much-needed safe space to explore worries, concerns and support systems and also to build confidence.
“Training provides professional development not only for therapists but for anyone, who works with survivors of sexual violence. It also informs professionals on the amended and soon-to-be-published CPS Guidance, which seeks to give greater clarity around the provision of therapy.”
Rachelle Kipling, Assistant Chief Executive, said: “It’s been great that we have been able to provide NHSE funding to ARCH so this training can be delivered.
“It should ensure no victim is denied the opportunity to receive ongoing support so they can cope and recover ahead of any court case.
“Access to ongoing support should enable victims to stay engaged in the criminal process and seek justice