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Navigating the Criminal Justice System

Navigating the Criminal Justice System

We understand that the journey through the criminal justice system can be lengthy, but please know that we are here to support you every step of the way. At times, there might be periods of silence, and it’s important to remember that this does not indicate any negative developments.

The Process:

The investigation, court dates, and the entire legal process can indeed take time. However, rest assured that you will receive updates at each stage of this journey. These updates are designed to keep you informed about the progress of your case.


Reporting to the Police

What is a Video Recorded Interview (VRI)?

A video recorded interview, sometimes referred to as a VRI, is an interview with the police which will be used as evidence in court.

The purpose of this interview is to convey your experience in your own words. This will then be played to the court if your case goes to trial.

These interviews are usually recorded in a special recording suite in a police station, so they can capture the audio and video clearly so you only have to do this interview once. You can bring someone to support you along, however they will have to wait in a separate room whilst you give your evidence. Your ISVA can also come along to support you, if you’d like them there. 

Clarifying Questions?

The police officers will ask questions to clarify certain parts of the story, but you will lead the interview and can take as many breaks as you need. The officers that conduct the interview are specially trained to do so, and understand it is not an easy thing to speak about, so will give you the time and space you need to tell your story.

Comfort Items?

If you would feel more comfortable to have a fidget toy or something comforting to take in with you, you can do so. It is important that any fidgets brought in are quiet, as this can impact the recording.

Additional Needs?

If you have any additional needs, such as a learning difference or a disability, you can have an interpreter or an intermediary, this is someone who can help you to communicate with the police in the best way. Intermediaries are specially trained and in high demand, so sometimes it may take a little longer to schedule your VRI if you need an intermediary.

Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC)

What is a SARC?

The SARC offer immediate help to anyone who has experienced a recent or non-recent rape or sexual assault in Wiltshire. If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, no matter how long ago, you can contact the SARC directly with or without police involvement. It’s a safe place where you’ll find confidential practical and emotional support from our team of specialist staff.

Sexual Health Screening Swabs?

You can have sexual health screening swabs taken at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC), when you have the forensic medical. These will be sent off to your nearest hospital and you usually get the results within the next few days via text message.

Home Screening Kits?

Some clinics now offer the option to have a screening kit sent to your home address, so that you can do it within your own time and in the comfort of your own home.  These come in discreet packaging too, so it is private.

For more information, visit Help after rape and sexual assault – NHS (

For more information about what happens during your appointment at the SARC, visit: The Swindon and Wiltshire Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) – First Light

Smear Tests and Your Health

Discussing Your Concerns?

Smear tests and other health screenings can feel quite distressing after experiencing an assault. It’s best to discuss this with your doctor if you feel comfortable to do so. You are always allowed to specify a preference on doctors when having an intimate exam, and can also have a chaperone and someone for support present.

Below are some guides from different women’s charities with more information:

Jo’s Trust have partnered with RapeCrisis to provide helpful information about anxiety with health screenings after an assault, you can read more here:

The Eve Appeal have also created a guide for both survivor’s and health care professionals. You can view this here:

Preparing for the Trial

The Charging Decision?

Now the police have applied for early advice and had information back, they’ll be preparing to submit the investigation to the CPS for a charging decision. If they decide to charge, the next step will be setting a trial date.

Preparing for the Trial?

Once a trial date is set, there is likely to be a while between setting the date and going to court. However, this gives up time to prepare for court and make sure you feel as comfortable as possible when going there.

Court Visit?

We can arrange a time to go and visit the court before hand and have a look around, so that you know where you’ll be going on the day and who you’d meet when you go in there. You go in through a private entrance and you’ll always have someone with you, so it is nice and safe.

Special Measures?

The wait between charges and the trial also gives us time to consider what special measures you’d like in place. Special measures are things such as having a screen up in court so that you can not see him and he cannot see you, video calling into the court from a separate room or pre-recording your cross examination so that you do not have to attend the court on the day of the trial. We can chat to the police about this when a decision has been made.

Trial Length?

The trial length depends on how much evidence there is to go through and sometimes there will be delays such as sorting out the jury, clarifying evidence and the occasional tech issue. You’ll be told how long the trial is scheduled for when a date is set.

Support at Court? 

You’re allowed to bring someone with you to the court for support and your ISVA can also be there if you’d like them to. We will wait in the witness care room whilst you go into the court but will be there as soon as you come out. The witness service are amazing and they’ll help to support and take care of you whilst the trial goes on.

Ensure that you stay out of danger and do not offer to talk to the abuser about the situation.

Helplines and websites:

RapeCrisis – 24/7 helpline and online chat support available too :

Victim Support:


The Survivor’s Trust:

Male Specific Support:

Andy’s Man Club:

Survivor’s UK:

Male Survivor’s Partnership:

Childhood Abuse Support:

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood:


Support Line:

More information

About First Light

First Light is a charity supporting people in Cornwall, Devon and Wiltshire who have been affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Get help

If you or someone you know have experienced domestic abuse or sexual violence it can be difficult to know where to turn. First Light is here to help.

Our services

If you’re experienced sexual violence or domestic abuse, First Light are here to help you find a way through and move towards a brighter future.