New abuse victim guidelines

New guidelines for prosecutors on how to tackle cases involving child sexual abuse will help protect the most vulnerable victims, the CPS has said. The scheme will be tested in Leeds.

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Four abuse cases to be revisited as part of abuse victim guideline overhaul

Four sex abuse cases that were dropped by police or prosecutors are being reviewed by a new panel set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

As part of a wider overhaul, the Crown Prosecution Service and police chiefs have formed a panel of experts to look at cases where they have previously advised against taking further action.

Police and prosecutors also unveiled new child sexual exploitation and abuse guidelines, which stress victims must be allowed to seek counselling before trial, and make clear that children can be told when they are not alone in making claims against their alleged attacker.

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Victim Support: Courtroom culture is wrong

Government plans for young and vulnerable victims of crimes to be protected from appearing in court comes after a warning from the head of a leading charity.

Victim Support chief executive Javed Khan said:

Are we really waiting for a child witness to kill themselves before we accept that the adversarial culture of our courtrooms is wrong?

If things stay the same I fear it's only a matter of time before the worst happens.

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Current vulnerable victim court protection measures

  • Children automatically receive special measures, such as giving evidence from behind a screen or giving it via video link, and these are available to other victims and witnesses at a court's discretion.
  • Although judges have the power to intervene to prevent overly aggressive cross-examination and character assassinations, there have been instances of victims being left traumatised after court cases.
  • There is no limit on the number of lawyers who can cross-examine a victim or witness, or on the amount of time they can be on the stand.
  • Victims and witnesses can also be required to discuss graphic details of crimes such as sexual abuse.
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New abuse guidelines represent 'fundamental change'

Guidelines launched today on tackling abuse cases stem from a "fundamental change" in the way society views sexual offences, said the Crown Prosecution Service.

"We are, without doubt, at a moment of fundamental change in the way we view these offences within the criminal justice system, and in our society as a whole," said Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions.

Police inquiries such as Operation Yewtree, involving Jimmy Savile, have led to new guidelines
Police inquiries such as Operation Yewtree, involving Jimmy Savile and others, have led to new guidelines Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

Interim guidelines, which take immediate effect in a three-month consulation period, include the requirement that child sexual abuse cases are only dealt with by specialist teams of prosecutors.

Police and prosecutors will also be required to ensure support is available for victims and to "challenge myths and stereotypes in court".

More: Jimmy Savile hospital abuse revealed