Keir Starmer urges protection for victims

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Image by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona-On Unsplash
NewsJanuary 28th, 2014

 Former Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer called for significant improvements to the treatment of victims of sexual violence. Speaking at a lunch organised by the Bevan Foundation at the acclaimed Potted Pig restaurant in Cardiff on 27th January, extracts were reported in the Western Mail as follows:

“Victims of rape and child sexual abuse are often not getting the justice they deserve, and I believe that is because the criminal justice system is currently weighted against them.

“There is an understandable need to protect individuals from false accusations, but I think there is a need to contextualise such concern.

“When I was in charge of the CPS, we undertook a statistical exercise to compare the number of rape and domestic abuse allegations with the number of prosecutions for making false accusations. Over a 17-month period there were 5,551 prosecutions for rape and 35 for making false allegations of rape. There were also 111,000 prosecutions for domestic violence and only six for making false allegations of domestic violence.

“The Jimmy Savile scandal also provided evidence of how reluctant people are to come forward with allegations of abuse when they have no confidence they will be taken seriously. Between October 2012 and January 2013 600 people made a report to the Operation Yewtree team that they had been abused, 450 of whom by Jimmy Savile himself. Of those, the police considered that in 224 cases there were recordable criminal offences. Yet in his lifetime only four allegations were made against him. Overwhelmingly, people said they had not reported what happened at the time because they didn’t think they would be believed.”

Sir Keir said it was often claimed that England and Wales had the finest criminal justice system in the world: “But that can’t possibly be the case if so many people are reluctant to make legitimate complaints because they are afraid they won’t be believed,” he said.

The former DPP argued that within the system there was an assumption that people would come forward quickly if they had been sexually assaulted. Yet there was documented research that many people were reluctant to talk about their worst sexual experience.

“The system just doesn’t take account of that, and makes judgements about people’s credibility that are unwarranted,” said Sir Keir.

The Bevan Foundation gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Potted Pig and Positif Politics in organising the event.


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