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This page contains information and guidance for staff members supporting students who report allegations of assault and sexual assault and for staff members who are acting as Investigating Officers in cases related to misconduct under the University’s procedures.

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Advice for Staff Supporting Students who report Assault and Sexual Assault

The university guidance for students making a complaint about sexual misconduct can be found here.

If a student informs a member of staff that they have been the victim of assault or sexual assault the student should be informed of the options that are available to them. These options include:

  • Reporting the assault to the police;
  • Self-referring to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre, where swabs and clothing can be stored as evidence for many years whilst they decide if they want to pursue a police investigation if they are unsure;
  • Speaking to their GP or visiting a sexual health clinic;
  • Accessing internal support from the University Counselling Service (confidential), the Students’ Union and/or a Personal Tutor.

If the student does not wish to report the incident to the police, staff members should advise any student who reports assault or sexual assault by another student or staff member of St. George’s, University of London that they can submit a formal student complaint to the Academic Registrar under the Student Concerns and Complaints Procedure. This may be particularly relevant if it has not been possible to address the concern informally.

Information on the Concerns and Complaints Procedure can be found here.

Providing support to the student is of paramount importance and it is in the best interests of the student that the staff member talks through in detail the Student Concerns and Complaints Procedure prior to the student’s submission, so that the student is aware of how this will proceed and what the University’s remit is with regards to these cases. This will ensure that full transparency can be maintained between the University and the complainant and that the student feels they have been well supported in pursuing a case.

It is important that the student is informed of the differences between the Investigative boundaries of the University and a police investigation.

St George’s Concerns and Complaints process is separate from criminal law matters, and the University’s misconduct offences are distinct from criminal offences:

University Investigation (i.e Under Formal Concerns and Complaints Procedure)

Criminal Investigation (i.e. Reporting to Police)

The University investigation considers if there has been a breach of the Assault and Sexual Assault Policy and if misconduct as defined within the General Regulations for Students and Programme of Study (paragraph 20) has taken place

 

The police are responsible for investigating criminal offences. Evidence and information gathered in an investigation may be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to decide if the suspect should be charged with a criminal offence.

 

Under its procedures, the University uses the civil standard of proof, i.e. “the balance of probabilities.”

This means an independent Investigating Officer will decide whether it is more likely than not that the alleged incident occurred.

 

CPS will ask two questions when deciding whether to charge a suspect:

1) Is there sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction?

2) Is it in the public interest to prosecute?

If the suspect is charged, the criminal standard of proof that must be met by the prosecution during criminal proceedings at court is that they prove the case against the defendant “beyond reasonable doubt”.

The University cannot obtain forensic evidence. By law, CCTV footage from St George’s campus (University and Halls of Residence) is only retainable for a short period of time.

The police can obtain forensic evidence and CCTV footage. 

The outcome of an investigation will be written into a report for the Vice-Chancellor that will determine if any further action is recommended, and whether there is sufficient evidence to refer the alleged perpetrator for consideration under the Student Disciplinary Procedure or the Procedure for Consideration of Fitness to Study and Practise.

 

The outcome of a criminal case is that the suspect may be found guilty or not guilty of committing a criminal offence.

If they are found guilty, the court may decide to sentence the defendant right away or decide to have a separate hearing so that a pre-sentence report can be prepared.

Students on clinical programmes who become the subject of a criminal investigation are required to declare this immediately (i.e. not at the end of the investigation) to the Academic Registrar and Head of Student Conduct or Compliance.  

Providing support to the respondent of an investigation:

If a report of assault or sexual assault by a student involves another St George’s student, the Assault and Sexual Assault Policy states that there must be continuous support provided to each party:

     “6.2. If there is an allegation of assault by one student against another, then SGUL will provide continuity of pastoral support, by different staff members for each student. The supporting staff member will be separate to any staff involved in any subsequent disciplinary investigation.”                                               

You may not have the same views as the student, but you must be supportive.

This support should be organised by the Programme Team, but any difficulties arranging impartial support should be raised with the Dean for Students, the Deputy Dean for Students, or the Assistant Registrar (Student Services).

The student against whom the allegations have been made should be made aware of the allegations when they have been reported and should be informed to refrain from contact with the other party whilst the investigation is carried out. The student should be directed to the University’s support resources also, including the Counselling Service and the Students’ Union and encouraged to stay in regular contact with their designated support provider.

Meeting with students: Keeping records

Every effort should be made to encourage the student to report the incident to the University if and as soon as they feel able to. The maximum time that the student has to report the incident under the Concerns and Complaints procedure after it has occurred is 3 months. This is to prevent against degradation, loss or tainting of evidence.

When meeting with a student that has reported an assault or sexual assault, it is advisable that you inform the student that you will take notes and that you will share these with the student after the meeting. These notes may include action points, if necessary.

When taking minutes try to keep your notes clear and concise. Maintain neutral language and keep a factual record only i.e. without judgement. In addition, ensure that your notes can be understood by someone outside the University (e.g. a lawyer, family member etc) and that they cannot be open to misinterpretation.

The records that are kept by the programme team and academic staff members, and the speed of which an incident is reported will affect the currency of evidence and the perceived reliability of witnesses.

These records also provide a useful evidence trail of the support that was given to the student after their disclosure so the University can demonstrate that appropriate support was offered in line with the Assault and Sexual Assault Policy.

Advice for Staff Acting as an Investigating Officer in a case involving Sexual Assault

Reports of Sexual Assault can be reported and handled under a number of the University’s Processes, such as:

In addition, the Investigating Officer will need to consult the University’s Assault and Sexual Assault Policy.

The policy states:

     “4.3. If a student is affected by sexual assault or assault, allegedly by another SGUL student, and the affected student decides not to report the assault to the police; the affected student may decide to discuss the assault with the University. The University will advise about how the incident would be dealt with if a University investigation of the allegation, as a potential breach of regulations under the disciplinary procedures, were carried out. Considerations for the student could include the nature of events, and how the investigative boundaries of the University contrast with those of a criminal investigation.”

     “4.4. The outcome of a University investigation into the alleged assaultwill determine whether any disciplinary penalty for the alleged assailant should occur.”

Not all reports of sexual assault will be referred into the formal stage of the Student Concerns and Complaints Procedure for investigation. Often support and welfare services are more valuable to the student than the need to seek redress against the alleged perpetrator. Be mindful that it is your role as the Investigating Officer to determine, using the balance of probabilities, only whether or not ‘sexual misconduct’ has occurred, not to determine that a student has committed a criminal offence, such as rape.

Balance of probabilities 

The balance of probabilities has a lower burden of proof than beyond reasonable doubt. It means that you must be satisfied that on the evidence, the occurrence of an event was more likely than not to have happened.

Succeeds

Fails

It is more probable than not that the event occurred

The probabilities are equal or it is more probable that the event did not occur

 

 In preparation for your role as Investigating Officer, staff members are encouraged to read the following resources:

  • Staff members should familiarise themselves with Universities UK’s guidance on How to Handle Alleged Student Misconduct Which May Also Constitute A Criminal Offence - This provides information and guidance on why and how Universities in the UK should investigate allegations of misconduct that may also constitute a criminal offence, such as assault and sexual assault. It includes examples of cases and outcomes, as well as detailed information on types of penalties and recommendations
  • Against Violence and Abuse Combat Misconduct Resource Hub – This resource hub has been developed by AVA in partnership with Universities UK and the NUS. It incorporates the expertise of University staff and students to provide information, guidance and resources on sexual misconduct. This has been developed as part of the #CombatMisconduct project.

This provides information and guidance on why and how Universities in the UK should investigate allegations of misconduct that may also constitute a criminal offence, such as assault and sexual assault. It includes examples of cases and outcomes, as well as detailed information on types of penalties and recommendations.

Conducting interviews

Please refer to the Staff Training Pages and Investigating Officer Protocol for information on managing the structure of the interview.

When interviewing both the complainant and the respondent:

  • Do not begin the interview until all parties are present;
  • Ensure the whole meeting is recorded;
  • Remain sensitive and be patient;
  • Acknowledge the difficulty in disclosing sensitive information;
  • Allow the student the opportunity to give their account of events;
  • When constructing and asking questions for interview, do not ask leading questions;
  • Ensure that the student has a dedicated support contact.

Enquire whether the student needs further support information from the University (Please contact the Dean for Students or the Deputy Dean for Students if you need further advice on this).  You should as good practice in all cases, ask the support contact to touch base with the student a few days after the interview, even if the student declines further support at interview stage.

Writing the report

When writing the Investigating Officer’s Report that is submitted to the Vice-Chancellor for approval, there are a number of elements to keep in mind:

  • Use neutral language, e.g. Complainant and Respondent, terminology such as “student X reported” and “student X told me that”;
  • Do not elicit blame to one party;
  • Do not use language or phrasing that may be considered “victim shaming”, such as referring in judgement to the amount of alcohol consumed by the complainant. 
Support for Investigating Officers

If you have any questions throughout the process, please do not hesitate to contact the Student Conduct and Compliance team, the Academic Registrar or the Dean of Students.

In addition, acting as the Investigating Officer in assault or sexual assault cases can be challenging. Please do speak to a senior member of your programme team or the Dean or Deputy Dean for Students if you require more support. 

Resources

There are a number of resources that staff can signpost students to. Staff should take note of the specifics of the case, if the student has disclosed this information, and consider which resources would be most beneficial in providing support to the student.

Staff acting as an Investigating Officer may also want to read through the material provided by these organisations and resources, as they can be useful for understanding how best to manage these cases sensitively.

Internal Resources: St George's Student Union
  • Welfare Handbook – information on resources in the Students’ Union and who to contact.
  • The University Counselling Service – email to make an appointment.
  • Sexual Abuse Support – Students' Union resource on sexual health, including support information for victims of abuse
  • Rape Crisis South London / RASASC and SGUL -The service enables students to access free, non-judgemental and highly qualified support from Rape Crisis South London. It is for female and non-binary (and gender-queer) survivors of sexual abuse, sexual violence, sexual assault and rape. Students can email Steph via outreach@rasasc.org.uk. [Please note that this service will currently run until June 2022]

Students who are provisionally suspended pending the outcome of a University investigation are still able to access support from the Students’ Union and the University Counselling Service. Students will be advised if they will need to make prior arrangements for appointments (i.e. they might need to advise the Student Conduct and Compliance Team when they need to be on-site so that Security can be alerted to this). Please note that all suspension arrangements are co-ordinated by Student Conduct and Compliance and students need written permission to temporarily attend site.

External resources
  • Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre South London – Support resource for sexual assault and abuse victims, including counselling in South London and a free national helpline.
  • Refuge – support for those who have experienced violence and abuse, including sexual violence. Resources include a free 24hour national helpline, emergency temporary accommodation, community support. Refuge also offers culturally-specific support services and support for children.
  • Survivors UK is a male and non-binary sexual violence support agency for those who have been affected by rape or sexual abuse. There is a webchat and SMS service option to contact them and they emphasise that you can share information at your own pace.
  • Galop supports LGBT+ people who have experienced sexual abuse and violence. Their website includes contact details for the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline, the LGBT+ Hate Crime Helpline and the National Conversion Therapy Helpline. You can also self-refer to their services and they can also offer referrals or signposting to specialist or local LGBT+ services and organisations.
  • The Survivors Trust – this trust has 120 member organisations that provide specialist support for men, women and children who are victims of sexual violence and abuse. By putting in your postcode you can find specialist support in your area.
  • Women's Aid – Information on getting help if you think you might be in an abusive relationship, including a live chat and email option. Forums for speaking to a supportive community of abuse survivors and a handbook for help on all aspects of domestic abuse, including housing and dealing with the police.
  • List of Sexual Assault Referral Centres in the UK – NHS website that allows you to search your postcode or town to find Rape and Sexual Assault Referral Centres near you. At a SARC, swabs and clothing can be stored as evidence for many years whilst the service user considers if they want to pursue a police investigation.
  • The Havens – specialist centres in London for people who have been raped or sexually assaulted. There are three locations in Camberwell, Whitechapel and Paddington, which cover the whole of London. You can make an appointment at the location of your choice using the contact details on their website.
  • Rights of Women, Booklet: From report to court: a handbook for adult survivors of sexual violence - this booklet contains detailed information on the journey that a person who reports sexual assault to the police would undertake, including information on the legal process from the point of reporting it to the police through to sentencing after a court case has finished. 
  • Responding to Disclosures of gender based violence is a pre-reading document that the Students’ Union received from AVA designed to assist in responding to student disclosures

If staff have any concerns or questions regarding the options or process for reporting assault and sexual assault to the University they can contact the Student Conduct and Compliance Team. 

 

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