First pictures of state-of-the-art centre for sexual violence victims in Leeds

A new state-of-the-art centre for victims of sexual violence and abuse has moved a step closer to opening in Leeds - as police release pictures of the progress.

By Abbey Maclure
Sunday, 12th January 2020, 6:00 am
A self-contained live link suite showing the newly fitted door leading to the live link recording room
A self-contained live link suite showing the newly fitted door leading to the live link recording room

Work on a purpose built Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) facility for West Yorkshire started in late 2018 and will house a number of specialist services.

The centre, which will be located in Sunningdale House in Leeds, is due to open its doors this spring.

It will incorporate court live-link facilities, vulnerable victims suites for video recorded interviews, a hub for specialist support services and access to Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA), a service uniquely commissioned by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

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One of the forensic examination rooms

West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson said: “It is encouraging to see the progress being made toward the development of the new Sexual Assault Referral Centre and what that will mean for both victims and survivors.

“It is now taking shape at real pace and 2020 will mark yet another step forward for victim care and support.

“Once complete, this purpose built facility will offer a fully integrated partnership service, that keeps us at the very forefront of service delivery.”

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for West Yorkshire, West Yorkshire Police, the NHS England and Courts Service HMTCS have all been involved in the centre's development.

The forensic suite waiting room - each forensic pod contains a waiting room, examination room, shower and toilet along with an aftercare room

The news comes following the YEP's We Are The 95% series, in which survivors of rape spoke out to highlight the tiny prosecution rate in West Yorkshire.

Just 4.4% of rapes reported to West Yorkshire Police between March 2017 and 2018 resulted in someone being charged.

However, the numbers of rape victims coming forward to report their attack has risen dramatically in two years, West Yorkshire Police have said.

Police say services at the new centre will be aimed at increasing the number of victims and witnesses giving evidence and achieving successful outcomes through the Criminal Justice System.

Mark Burns-Williamson, the PCC for West Yorkshire, said: “Work is now really gathering pace to give the best possible service to vulnerable victims and witnesses with this state-of-the-art purpose built facility.

“As a shared vision between the OPCC, West Yorkshire Police, NHS England and the Courts Service, we want to ensure that we transform and improve the experience of vulnerable victims and witnesses by having all dedicated and accessible services under one roof.

“A key role for me as the PCC is to champion the interests of victims and I am proud of the services I have helped put in place in recent years which substantially improve on what was available before these decisions were devolved to me in 2015/16.

“The opening of the new SARC in 2020 will coincide with the launch of my Victim’s Strategy that puts victims and witnesses at the heart of all that we do, and I have been determined to help deliver this vision and transform SARC services in West Yorkshire.

“We wanted to involve victims and survivors, children, adults, and young people in the development and improvement of services, and have larger dedicated premises with an increased number of specialist facilities which I believe we have managed to do, making what will be one of the best services of its kind in the country.”