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Frequently Asked Questions – Independent Sexual Violence Advisors

Q: How long is each appointment?

A: On average, an hour is set aside for each appointment, although on some occasions we recognise that you may require more time and this is accommodated.

Q: Do you provide an outreach service?

Yes, if you are unable to travel to us due to illness, disabilities or age, we will visit you at home (or a mutually convenient location). You will initially be offered three appointments after which, your needs will be reviewed again.

A: How long will I be able to see my advisor for?

Your advisor will support you throughout the entire criminal justice process, from reporting the crime to your trial and will even help you with a criminal injuries compensation application after the trial (if applicable). It is difficult to gauge how long any investigation will be but you can be assured of their support for as long as it takes.

Q: What is criminal injuries compensation?

A: The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) is a government body that awards compensation to victims of crime. You must have reported the crime to the police but a conviction is not always necessary. Some clients are awarded compensation even if no further action is taken with the case. Your advisor will help you with an application to the CICA but will advise you to seek legal advice if you need to appeal a CICA decision. There are many tariffs for compensation so it is difficult to estimate how much money you will receive.

Q: I haven’t reported the crime to the police yet, will you help me?

A: Your advisor will discuss the process of reporting an incident to the police and answer any questions that will help you to reach a decision. If you decide to report to the police, your advisor will contact a specially trained officer and arrange a meeting at a time and date convenient to you. Your advisor can accompany you to any interviews or appointments as necessary.

Q: I’m scared that no one will believe me.

A: Almost all victims of sexual crimes fear this very same thing. Please be assured that your advisor will believe everything you say and will never judge you or condemn you.

There have been many rumours about the police and their attitudes towards victims of sexual assaults. We have a very good relationship with the police and have direct access to a specialist unit with officers that have been highly trained to support victims of sexual crimes. It is the police’s job to investigate a crime – not judge you – and it is our job to make sure that you are treated with dignity and respect whilst in our care.

Q: How will I know what has happened to my attacker?

A: You will be regularly updated by your advisor or Sexual Offences Liaison Officer on all aspects of your case including the whereabouts and actions taken against your perpetrator.

If they are released on bail, you will be appropriately notified. Likewise, if they are remanded in custody, you will be informed of any forthcoming court appearances.

Q: Will my attack appear in the newspaper?

A: Not without your involvement. Sometimes the police have a duty to protect the public, especially in situations where they believe a dangerous person is at large. Equally, there may also be witnesses that can strengthen your case and sometimes the media can help track them down. You will never be identified as this would be a breach of your human rights. You should be informed and consulted before any press release is made.

Q: How long will it be before I go to court?

A: It is likely to take some time before you are given a trial date. Sometimes it can even take 12-18 months. It is important, leading up to the trial, that you access the support of your advisor as they will ensure you are updated regularly and will even arrange a pre-court visit to familiarise you with the court process and surroundings.

Q: Will I have to give evidence?

A: Victims of sexual offences are granted ‘special measures’ to assist them with giving evidence in court. These can range from special screens that prevent the witness from seeing the defendant; video recorded evidence recorded before the trial and live TV links – allowing a witness to give evidence from outside the court.

Q: Who will see me?

A: As part of the ‘special measures’ the judge can also order that the public gallery of the court is cleared – so that evidence can be given in private. In this instance, only the defence and prosecution barristers, police officers, court staff and jury members will be present.

Q: Will I be able to speak to my barrister?

A: This is often difficult to arrange. It is an area that we are trying to improve; however the current situation often means that a client is unable to speak to the barrister until the day before, or even the morning of the trial.

Q: How long will the trial go on for?

A: Again this is very difficult to answer. Depending on the complexity of the case it can be anything from one morning, to a week, to a month. Often, legal arguments can delay the start of some cases and in these circumstances your advisor or Sexual Offence Liaison Officer will keep you updated. There are rooms within the court that you and your family will be able to use (away from any of the defendant’s representatives); where you will be able to rest and have refreshments.