Woman abused by father says new pledge for rape victims 'long overdue'

  • Video report by Jonathan Brown

A woman who was sexually abused by her father as a child says new measures to improve rape prosecution rates are "long overdue".

Carol Higgins, from Denby Dale, West Yorkshire, was repeatedly attacked by her father Elliott Appleyard when she was a teenager, but says it took more than 30 years before her claims were taken seriously by police.

Appleyard was eventually jailed for 20 years for a string of offences in 2019.

The Crown Prosecution Service has now announced new guidelines for bringing sex offenders to justice, including offering advice to police in every case within 21 days and focusing on suspects' behaviour rather than the credibility of alleged victims.

Ms Higgins, now 54, said: "If these new things were in place and there during my 35-year wait for justice then I wouldn't have had to suffer and go through all the trauma. It's long overdue."

Ms Higgins was abused at the home she shared with her father after his wife left him.

She first reported his crimes in 1985, but was threatened by him to prevent her from pursuing the claims.

He was eventually convicted of five counts of rape and 10 counts of indecent assault.

Ms Higgins, who has waived her right to anonymity and written a book about her experiences, said: "We were children screaming into the abyss for help. I was being sexually abused and the authorities weren't doing anything about it.

"A police officer said to me 'if this goes to court your name will be dragged through mud' and I'd be made out to be the biggest liar going.

"If they believed me they knew they were leaving a rapist on the streets."

What do the new CPS guidelines include?

  • Advice offered to police in every rape or sexual assault case within 21 days

  • Investigations will focus on the suspect's behaviour - not the credibility of victims

  • A single point of contact for victims to improve their experience and reduce trauma

  • National guidance for counsel representing the Crown Prosecution in court

Ms Higgins said she hoped the changes would help secure justice for other victims.

"Girls aren't being believed, or boys, so they feel like they're shouting into the void, like I was for 35 years," she said.

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