Guernsey Press

Sexual assault referral centre now a priority for States

DEPUTIES have given overwhelming support to the principle of establishing a sexual assault referral centre after they were told not to let government process take precedence over the community’s needs.

Deputy Yvonne Burford, taking part in a previous States meeting using Microsoft Teams, was the driver of the successful amendment. (29202907)

Yvonne Burford’s amendment to the Government Work Plan means that a sexual assault referral centre (SARC) is explicitly mentioned as a potential priority action for this term.

States members were asked not to vote in favour of the initiative unless they were committed to seeing it through to commissioning, so as not to raise false hopes.

The voting was 34 in favour, with one abstention.

Deputy Burford said there was a clear evidenced demand for the service, and it would improve lives and contribute to a long overdue cultural change.

‘The after effects [of rape and sexual assault] can persist for many years or even for a lifetime.

‘There can be mental health and substance abuse issues from the unresolved trauma which can also cause relationship issues, family breakdown and physical health issues. This is where a SARC comes in.

‘SARCs offer benefits for the victim, the health service and the criminal justice process.

‘They offer a high standard of victim care, high levels of victim satisfaction and an improved standard of forensic evidence.’

Deputy Rob Prow, the president of Home Affairs, said he was ‘genuinely baffled’ about why the amendment had been laid because his committee had already identified the issue as a priority and that they were 100% committed to it, but it needed to be considered ‘in the round’.

Home Affairs wished to act on the advice of its officers, which was that it needed to be part of the updated domestic abuse strategy, which came under the justice review.

He asked States members to trust his committee.

‘Can I make it abundantly clear to every member of this Assembly, the public and the media, the report listed a number of initiatives, which included establishing a sexual assault referral centre, and also the merits of extending the strategy to become a domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy.’

The seconder of the amendment, Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller, picked up on the ‘in the round’ theme, and questioned why the committee was unable to do anything until it could do everything.

‘If we wait for all ducks to line up in a row it will be years before anything happens.

‘Is it appropriate that we have to wait for all the pieces of the puzzle to fit together and will they ever be in place, or do we have enough evidence today for solutions so that we can start acting today?’

Deputy John Gollop raised the point that all five members of Home Affairs were male, and he thought the Assembly needed to send out the right message.

He also highlighted that of the 137 reported allegations of sexual assault in the most recent police annual report, only six or seven were prosecuted.

Home Affairs’ members had indicated initially that they would abstain from voting on the amendment, but after some impassioned speeches they all voted in support.