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.
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.
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".
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.
- 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.
A report has revealed that the number of allegations of physical and sexual child abuse in schools has risen.
In the past three academic years (2008-2011) there has been a 19% increase and in that time dismissals have increased by 66% and suspensions by 41%.
The report is entitled "Safe from Harm".
It was undertaken by a legal research company looking at the effectiveness of legislation that was introduced to protect children in the wake of the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
Freedom of Information requests were sent to all 152 LEAs in England and the key findings include:
- In the past three schools years a total of 9,048 allegations of physical and sexual child abuse have been made against staff with and without Qualified Teaching Status (QTS).
- This has resulted in 1,355 suspensions and 866 dismissals of staff with and without QTS.
- only 10% of these allegations resulted in dismissal and of those suspended, 64% were dismissed.
In Yorkshire and the Humber 714 allegations were made against staff with and without QTS between 2008 and 2011. 172 staff were suspended during that time with 63 members of staff being dismissed.
– Malcolm Underhill, IBB Solicitors, who represents victims of child abuse
The information collated from the report supports my concern that there are still too many people gaining access to children, for their own iniquitous behaviour. I am equally concerned that some LEAs were unable to provide us with this data as they do not record these statistics.
– Jan Cosgrove, National Secretary of Fair Play for Children,
This Report lays out important issues in a balanced manner and we hope it will be used to promote public debate - when 10% of allegations which are reported result in dismissals we have to be concerned. What happens in the other 90% of cases? The likelihood is reprimands, retraining, employment warnings, poor practice, as well as unsubstantiated claims. This is not scaremongering - parents are entitled to know the answers where it's their children who are involved. We have to go beyond the era when questions were not asked and children had no voice.
Police looking into claims of child sexual exploitation by the late Jimmy Savile and others, have now launched a formal criminal investigation.
Operation Yewtree has so far gathered more than 400 line sof enquiry and over 200 potential victims have been identified.
Though there will be no police investigation into Jimmy Savile, it has emerged that there are living people that require formal investigation as a result of the inquiry so far.
– Commander Peter Spindler
We are dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale. The profile of this operation has empowered a staggering number of victims to come forward to report the sexual exploitation which occurred during their childhood.
Today’s demonstrations in Rotherham between opposing groups, supporters of the English Defence League and United Against Fascism, passed by without any significant disorder. 800 extra police officers were on duty in Rotherham town centre to minimise disruption and protect property.
Approximately 300 EDL members took part in demonstration while 150 people held a counter-demonstration elsewhere in the town centre.
South Yorkshire Police made just three arrests; one man was arrested on suspicion of public order including making threats towards a police officer, a second man was arrested on suspicion of affray and a third man was arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon.
– South Yorkshire Assistant Chief Constable Andy Holt
I’m pleased that the demonstrations passed without significant disruption today and that the residents of Rotherham were able to go about their usual business as much as possible.
Riot police have been deployed to keep order at the English Defence League's demo in Rotherham