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Failure to report child abuse 'should be criminal offence'

Failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse should be made a criminal offence, the former director of public prosecutions has said.

Speaking on BBC Panorama, Keir Starmer said it should be "mandatory" to report allegations.

"I think the time has come to change the law and close a gap that's been there for a very long time."

Keir Starmer
Last month Keir Starmer called new child abuse guidelines the biggest shift in attitude in the criminal justice system "for a generation". Credit: PA

"The problem is if you haven't got a central provision requiring people to report, then all you can do is fall back on other provisions that aren't really designed for that purpose and that usually means they run into difficulties.

"What you really need is a clear, direct law that everybody understands."

New guidelines on prosecuting benefit cheats

The new guidelines set out the factors that prosecutors should take into account when advising the court on allocation – whether to send cases to the Crown Court – and also act as the aggravating factors that prosecutors will draw to the sentencing court’s attention.

  • whether the fraud was professionally planned
  • whether the fraud was carried out over a significant period of time
  • whether multiple frauds occurred (multiple frauds include where one false declaration or a failure to disclose a change of circumstances results in multiple payments)
  • use of a false or stolen identity
  • relevant previous convictions / cautions/previous out of court disposals for benefit fraud
  • an attempt to conceal or dispose of evidence
  • abuse of a position of trust
  • substantial consequential loss to public funds

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Victims of crime to be given right to appeal

Victims of crime will be able to appeal against decisions by prosecutors not to charge suspects under a new policy unveiled today.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC has put out to consultation, plans for the new Victims' Right to Review (VRR) policy, which covers any decision taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to not charge a suspect.

The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC will unveil the victims initiative today. Credit: Press Association

Unveiling the new policy, Mr Starmer says the initiative is one of the most significant victim initiatives ever launched by the CPS.

He said: "The criminal justice system historically treated victims as bystanders and accordingly gave them little say in their cases.

"The decisions of prosecutors were rarely reversed because it was considered vital that decisions, even when later shown to be questionable, were final and could be relied upon.

"This approach was intended to inspire confidence, but in reality it had the opposite effect. "Refusing to admit mistakes can seriously undermine public trust in the criminal justice system."

Starmer on 'huge privilege' of being head of CPS

Keir Starmer, who could have extended the term, said it had been "a huge privilege" to work in the role leading the CPS as he confirmed that he will step down as Director of Public Prosecutions.

It has been a huge privilege to have led the CPS for the past four and half years.

I have enjoyed my time very much and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on the important work of the CPS until my term of office ends.

– Keir Starmer QC

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with Keir.

Not just a formidable lawyer, he has brought sound instinct and humanity to his role, noticeably in the guidelines he has published.

He has led the CPS through a difficult time and leaves it as a more professional and more effective service than he found it.

The CPS is now, more than ever, a key partner in the criminal justice system.

In my view he has been one of the most successful directors of recent years.

– Dominic Grieve, Attorney General

Tax dodgers warned of major crackdown

Tax dodgers are being warned of a sharp rise in the number of cases being prosecuted. Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, says the current economic climate makes it even more important to tackle avoidance. He's predicting fivefold over the next four years.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions
Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions Credit: Press Association

Keir Starmer said: "There are people suffering who are paying taxes. I think it's important for a prosecution service to respond to public concern, to be seen to be in tune with what ordinary people think ought to happen and gain the confidence of people that we are prosecuting good cases properly.

"The heart of the ramping-up is not only the increase in volume that's already been referred to but also a demonstrability to prosecute highly complex dishonest tax avoidance schemes. So, big tax avoidance schemes if they are dishonest will be prosecuted."

There were 550 tax evasion convictions in 2011/12.

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