Sexual Assault Referral Centre opens in West Yorkshire two years after plans announced
A state-of-the-art centre for victims of rape, sexual abuse and assault has opened in Leeds.
Due to open in Spring, the opening of Sunningdale House has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) is being funded by the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and NHS England, and will be used for police interviews and live court video-links, but also for survivors to access support and advice, with adult and child services under the same roof.
The centre will also be a point for medical and forensic services to assist in gaining justice for survivors.
Just 4.4 per cent 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, the force has said.
Work on the facility started in late 2018 but the project time frame has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said the centre had been an ambition of his since being elected in 2012, and he was "delighted" at its opening today (Friday).
He said: “A key role for me as the PCC is to champion the interests of victims and survivors, I am proud of the services we have helped develop and put in place in recent years which substantially improve on what was available in previous years."
Assistant Chief Constable Catherine Hankinson, said: “The opening of the SARC represents a major milestone in our commitment to both victims and witnesses, as well as our collective ability to safeguard those who are most vulnerable within our communities.
“It is extremely pleasing to see the doors open on this new facility after all the hard work which has gone into its development and it will mean a great deal to all those who need to access it.
“In particular, the introduction of innovative solutions such as the court live link and victim suites take us yet another step towards our ambitions of making the experience of giving evidence and achieving justice as simple and comfortable as possible.
“We care deeply about those who have been subject to such offences and by bringing all this expertise and technology under one roof, we can offer one of the most advanced services in the country.”