LimeCulture has been working hard over the last 2 years to drive up standards for Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs). Having trained over 80 ISVAs, we are huge supporters of this workforce and we are committed to ensuring that the profile of the ISVA is raised to enable them to support victims effectively.
Over the last few months a number of ISVAs have contacted LimeCulture to ask whether there was anything that could be done to improve their lot at court. Some ISVAs told us how difficult they had found it to support their clients when they gave evidence because of Judges, barristers, ushers and members of the witness service challenging the right of the ISVA to carry out this role. This is in spite of the fact that Achieving Best Evidence 2011 explicitly states that this is a function that the ISVA can undertake, provided they have been properly trained. The consequence of this is that there are a number of victims of sexual violence who are not being properly supported, even though they have an ISVA who should be able to support them.
LimeCulture was shocked by the number of ISVAs who have reported this to be an issue for them and decided that something has to be done to raise the profile of the ISVA role amongst other professionals, to enable them to do their jobs effectively, and makes sure that they are not blocked by professionals who do not understand their roles and responsibilities. Therefore, LimeCulture raised this matter with officials at the Ministry of Justice and the HM Courts and Tribunal Service to see what could be done. Following a productive meeting with the officials, we are pleased to say that the MoJ and HMCTS were very supportive of the ISVA role. Since the meeting, we have kept in touch with them and numerous emails later, we have today learned that HMCTS are keen to ensure that information about ISVAs – their roles and responsibilities – will be included in the material that is available to people working in the court service.
LimeCulture has also been in discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to ask that they ensure that their lawyers and caseworkers are clear about both the role of the court supporter and the right of the ISVA to act as one. We will keep you updated on progress.
While there is still a long way to go to ensure that the role of the ISVA is properly understood and supported in every single case, LimeCulture believe that by improving the knowledge of those working in the court service, this development should go a long way to increase the awareness of the support that can and should be provided by ISVAs.
However, ISVAs themselves may want to be proactive. There are things that ISVAs can do to help ensure that they are given the opportunity to carry out this vital role in supporting their client at court. A few practical steps are listed below:
- Make sure you are named as the witness supporter on the special measures application (assuming this is what your client wants!)
- Ask the police to keep you updated with the outcome of the application
- If the application is granted and you are named as the witness supporter, check that the court (ie Ushers and the Witness Service) are aware of this when you attend court for the pre-trial visit.
- Check again on the day of the trial when you arrive at court. This should be done through the CPS. If there is any attempt to change the decision on the day of the trial, then OBJECT
- Use all of the above as evidence to support your objection.
LimeCulture would be keen to hear from ISVAs about their experiences in the court room. Please contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org
LimeCulture begins training our 5th cohort of ISVAs tomorrow (2 October 2013). For further information about the training available for ISVAs please visit our website www.limeculture.co.uk