JiCSAV: Justice in Covid-19 for Sexual Abuse and Violence

Category | information-exchange

University of Lancaster
Siobhan Weare

In 2022, MSP was a partner on an important piece of research led by Coventry University: JiCSAV: Justice in Covid-19 for Sexual Abuse and Violence, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on criminal justice journeys of adult and child survivors of sexual abuse, rape and sexual assault.

MSP Board Member, Dr Siobhan Weare, University of Lancaster, was a key collaborator on the work.

Project overview

Over 150,000 sexual offences were recorded by police in year ending March 2020 (ONS, 2020), and there are indications that lockdown increased some sexual offences (e.g. online-facilitated abuse, or sexual abuse perpetrated by family members) and may have decreased others. For example, there was a 24% reduction in rapes reported to the police in the period April to June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019 (ONS, 2020). However, there has been no research into the specific effects of COVID-19 on criminal justice system (CJS) policies and practices relating to sexual offences, nor on the journeys of survivors through the CJS during this period.

Prior to the pandemic, there were significant challenges for the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences and conviction rates were extremely low. Some of these challenges may have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and lockdown e.g. further delays to investigating cases, postponement of Achieving Best Evidence interviews. At the same time, however, COVID-19 generated significant innovation within the CJS, e.g. the introduction of a video platform within the courts enabling all parties in a criminal hearing to engage securely and remotely.

Drawing on the perspectives and experiences of CJS stakeholders, including complainants and families, police, Crown Prosecution Service, HM Courts and Tribunals Services, the Judiciary, Sexual Assault Referral Centres, and Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, the JiCSAV project explored unique insights into the impact of the pandemic on the CJS in sexual offence cases. Changes to procedures precipitated by COVID-19 offered longer-term benefits for survivors and stakeholders, and we aimed to identify these and provide recommendations about their use going forwards.

You can read the project objectives, impact statement, outputs and final report on the Coventry University website here