Rape victims and abused children could face greater protections when questioned in court under plans to be drawn up by former chief prosecutor Keir Starmer, Labour said today.
Mr Starmer, director of public prosecutions until earlier this year, will also look at making it a legal obligation for the police and prosecutors to keep crime victims informed about the progress of investigations.
There have been a number of high-profile cases where vulnerable witnesses have faced the harrowing ordeal of having to relive their experiences in detail under cross-examination in court.
Today, Mr Starmer said he would advise Labour on introducing legislation, should it win power in 2015, to give greater protections to vulnerable witnesses in court.
The law must be changed to require child abuse allegations to be reported, a lawyer who represents dozens of Savile victims has said.
Abuse lawyer Liz Dux, of Slater & Gordon, welcomed the recent shift in attitudes towards child abuse, but said "there is so much more that needs to be done to make sure evil like this can never prosper again."
"It is vital lessons are learnt and our clients are determined that something positive comes out of the terrible abuse they suffered."
Ms Dux expressed her support for the proposal of a law change made by former director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer.
She said: "We are now calling on the Government to introduce legislation whereby those in regulated activities who have direct knowledge of abuse and fail to do the right thing and report it will face prosecution."
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."
"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."
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
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.
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."
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.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer is to step down from the role in October at the end of his five-year term of office, the Crown Prosecution Service announced today.
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 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.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said cameras in court would "promote the principle of open justice". He said if it happened there would need to be "safeguards" to protect the interests of victims and witnesses.