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".
New guidelines for prosecutors on how to tackle cases involving child sexual abuse will help protect the most vulnerable victims, said the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Keir Starmer QC said:
– Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions
These guidelines are informed by those involved in protecting children. They are intended to spell out a different approach to prosecuting these very difficult cases.
In particular, the guidelines make clear that the focus for prosecutors must be on the credibility of the allegation being made.
Vulnerability can no longer be a barrier to justice and I want to see prosecutors actively challenging any misconceptions a jury might have.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said plans to pre-record testimony in criminal trials were designed to allow vulnerable victims to give evidence in "as easy and unchallenging a way as possible".
"The aim is to really take the victim out of the cauldron of the courtroom," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"I hope that it will give victims greater confidence to talk about what's happened to them."
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.
The Justice Secretary has announced that young and vulnerable victims of horrific crimes will be given the opportunity to pre-record evidence for criminal trials.
Chris Grayling said:"The particularly hostile treatment of victims and witnesses in court has nothing to do with fairness or justice.
"I am adamant we must put a stop to this, but without compromising everyone's right to a fair trial.
"So for the first time we are going to spare these victims from the aggressive and intimidating court atmosphere by making sure they can give evidence and be cross-examined before the trial starts."
Mr Grayling said the new approach will be piloted in Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames with the intention of rolling it out across the country if it is successful.
Young and vulnerable victims of horrific crimes are to be offered the chance to pre-record evidence for criminal trials in a bid to protect them from the trauma of appearing in court.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the new approach will be tested in Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston-upon-Thames with the intention of rolling it out across the country if it is successful.
The move would aim to avoid cases such as the death of violin teacher Frances Andrade, who killed herself after being cross examined at Manchester Crown Court.
The 48-year-old took her life during the trial of choirmaster Michael Brewer, who was later convicted of child sex offences against Mrs Andrade when she was 14 and 15 years old.