Richmond Park MP launches campaign to change law after rape victim ordered to pay to obtain court transcript
By Heather Nicholls
24th Oct 2023 | Local News
Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park, has launched a campaign to change the law after a rape victim was ordered to pay £7,500 to obtain a court transcript of her assailants trial.
Olney is calling on the Government to scrap "eye-watering" fees charged to victims to obtain court transcripts after her constituent Juliana Terlizzi, a victim of rape, was charged £7459.20.
She has tabled an amendment to the Victims' Bill to enable all victims to request a transcript of court proceedings free of charge.
Olney's campaign comes in the wake of the case of her constituent, Juliana Terlizzi, who was drugged and raped by her then-boyfriend in 2020.
Terlizzi, who has waived her right to anonymity, reached out to Olney for help after being charged £7459.20 to obtain transcripts of the 10-day trial, in which her former partner was convicted.
Terlizzi was advised by her therapist that a transcript of proceedings would aid her healing, but her request to the Crown Court for a free transcript of the trial was rejected.
In cases such as this, most victims do not attend trial, and without a transcript, they struggle to find out about proceedings, or why a certain verdict is reached.
Further, victims are sometimes actively discouraged from attending trial and have in some cases been told that they will distract the jury if they attend.
Some also face the prospect of having to sit in the gallery with their abuser's family.
Olney's campaign is calling on the Government to address this inequality, by at least matching the commitment made in Scotland to introduce a pilot scheme to waive court transcript fees for victims of sexual violence.
Further, the Richmond Park MP is calling on the Government to assess the value for money provided by current contracts with private companies who produce transcripts, and to look into how new technologies can be adopted to reduce costs.
The Victims' Commissioner for London also supports calls for transcripts to be made available to victims.
Olney said: "I am proud to join my constituent Juliana in calling for this vital change.
"Justice should not have a price tag. Yet currently victims like Juliana are being denied access to justice if they cannot afford to pay eye-watering fees.
She added: "As most victims do not attend trial, a transcript of court proceedings is essential to provide clarity on how the verdict was reached and to aid victims' recovery.
"It beggars belief that some victims are being charged thousands of pounds just to read what was said during a trial that impacts them so profoundly.
The UK Government is failing victims. I am calling on the Justice Secretary to remove barriers to justice by accepting my amendment to the Victims' Bill to enable all victims to request a transcript free of charge."
Juliana Terlizzi, constituent of Sarah Olney MP and rape victim said: "When the trial ended in the beginning of 2022, my therapist suggested that I got the court transcripts as I was having difficulties remembering what happened throughout the trial.
"It feels as though your brain wants to block the trauma and so it becomes hard to retain or recall anything. How was I supposed to process what had happened if I didn't remember it?"
"My therapist explained that memory loss is often a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suggested that obtaining the court transcripts would help with my healing. "
She said: "I was astounded to find I would have to pay nearly £7,500 to get the transcripts of the rape trial I had been the victim of. I was completely devastated as I couldn't afford that.
"More than a year went by and to this day I am stuck, being denied the right to heal and move on. That's when I decided to contact Sarah and ask for help.
"I am hopeful that the Government will finally show through actions and not just words that they support victims and provide them with free court transcripts. Justice should be transparent and accessible."