The Criminal Bar Association has launched a training programme for counsel prosecuting and defending rape and serious sexual assault (RASSO) cases.

Tana Adkin KC, association chair, said the training programme would ‘hold at its core fairness to all involved in the criminal justice process’. Meanwhile a change would be needed in current fees which did not reflect the ‘seriousness or nature of the work’.

Adkin said: ‘We know that RASSO cases require the most skilled advocates to conduct them, they are witness intensive, require detailed and careful preparation at an early stage'. Current fees do not accept that, she said. ‘RASSO counsel describe feeling privileged and proud to prosecute and defend RASSO cases but their numbers have fallen and some who are trained RASSO counsel no longer wish to do this work, which is why we want government to respect and invest in the expertise and work of criminal barristers who chose this work.

'RASSO cases need to be paid equitably as between prosecution and defence.' In some cases prosecutors are paid less, she said. 

There are currently 668 RASSO prosecutors. Adkin said being ‘RASSO trained’ was a mark of excellence. The new training aims to ‘attract, retain and grow the diversity of talent the Criminal Bar has for RASSO casework’, Adkin said.

She added: ‘We want more newly qualified criminal barristers to feel the pride the criminal bar shares for conducting this important public work.

CBA vice-chair Mary Prior KC highlighted the ever-changing nature of RASSO work. ‘There is no area of criminal law which develops as quickly,' she said. 'A combination of changes in governmental approach to offences and sentencing, combined with developments in case law requires constant learning of the law.' 

The training programme, covering ‘all aspects of specialist RASSO trial advocacy’ including case analysis, written argument and expert witness handling, will be rolled out from next spring. 


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