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Move to 'confront' child sex abuse myths welcomed

It takes immense courage for a victim to report these horrific crimes and it is vital they know prosecutors will focus on the credibility of their evidence not their perceived vulnerabilities.

We welcome this move to confront the myths of child sexual abuse and to concentrate on the facts of the case and the behaviour of the offender.

It is critical that victims are referred to support agencies at the earliest opportunity to cope with the aftermath of the crime and prepare for the trauma of a trial.

We look forward to working with the Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies to ensure these principles lead to a better experience at court for child sex abuse victims.

– Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support

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'Child sex abuse cases have been plagued by myths'

Britain's top prosecutor has called new guidelines for child sex abuse cases "the most fundamental attitude shift" in the criminal justice system in a generation.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said: "In the past five years our approach to prosecuting sexual offences has matured and developed - but this change marks the most fundamental attitude shift across the criminal justice system for a generation

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the guidelines were a "fundamental attitude shift" Credit: Press Association

Mr Starmer added: "For too long, child sexual abuse cases have been plagued by myths about how 'real' victims behave which simply do not withstand scrutiny. The days of the model victim are over.

"From now on these cases will be investigated and prosecuted differently, whatever the vulnerabilities of the victim."

Myths and stereotypes about child sex abuse victims

A list of commons "myths and stereotypes" about victims will be included in new guidelines for prosecuting cases involving child sexual abuse.

They include:

  • The victim invited sex by the way they dressed or acted.
  • The victim used alcohol or drugs and was therefore sexually available.
  • The victim didn't scream, fight or protest so they must have been consenting.
  • The victim didn't complain immediately, so it can't have been a sexual assault.
  • The victim is in a relationship with the alleged offender and is therefore a willing sexual partner.
  • A victim should remember events consistently.
  • Children can consent to their own sexual exploitation.
  • Only girls and young women are victims of CSA.
  • There will be physical evidence of abuse.

New guidelines for prosecution of child sex abuse cases

The guidelines set out a new approach to prosecuting child sex abuse cases Credit: ITV News

New guidelines for the prosecution of child sex abuse cases will be published by the Crown Prosecution Service today.

The Director of Public Prosecutions said it marked "the most fundamental attitude shift" in the criminal justice system in a generation.

The advice will include a list of myths and stereotypes about victims that prosecutors may need to battle in court.

They include claims being undermined by a delay in reporting a crime, inconsistencies in what the victim remembers and whether they were drunk or wearing revealing clothes.

Over 5,000 cautions issued for serious crimes in 2012

The Justice Secretary has announced that simple cautions, which do not involve any form of punishment, for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and robbery will be scrapped.

  • Last year a total of 5,084 simple cautions were issued for the most serious crimes - those that would automatically be heard in the Crown Court if they went to trial.
  • These included 962 for possession of knives, 1,543 for other weapons and 54 for supplying or offering to supply class A drugs.
  • They were also used to deal with a raft of offences related to children, including seven for child prostitution and pornography.
  • There were 183 cautions for taking, distributing or publishing indecent photographs of children and 1,560 for cruelty or neglect of children.

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Some serious offenders escape with 'slap on the wrist'

Last year nearly 500 offenders who admitted committing some of the most serious crimes escaped with just a slap on the wrist.

Quite simply this is unacceptable and unfair on victims. That is why I am scrapping simple cautions for all of the most serious offences and a range of other offences that devastate lives and tear apart communities.

– Justice Secretary Chris Grayling

Cautions for serious offences to be scrapped

Serious offenders will no longer receive a mere "slap on the wrist", the Justice Secretary has said.

Chris Grayling said he was scrapping simple cautions, which do not involve any form of punishment, for serious crimes such as rape, manslaughter and robbery.

The Justice Secretary has announced an overhaul of the cautions system Credit: Press Association

Police will no longer use them for sexual offences against children such as child prostitution or pornography, possession of an offensive weapon or supplying class-A drugs.

"Last year nearly 500 offenders who admitted committing some of the most serious crimes escaped with just a slap on the wrist", Mr Grayling said ahead of the Tory party conference in Manchester.

"Quite simply this is unacceptable and unfair on victims. That is why I am scrapping simple cautions for all of the most serious offences and a range of other offences that devastate lives and tear apart communities."

Burglary is still a violent crime, says penal reform group

Burglary is a crime violent enough to be punished by a prison sentence but run-of-the-mill thieves should face a community sentence, an influential prison reform charity has said.

Speaking to Daybreak, the Howard League for Penal Reform's Mark Gettleson claimed "a loss of liberty" was a "disproportionate" punishment for someone stealing because they were desperate.

However, burglary is "a violation of personal privacy" and capable of becoming violent, so should be punished by a prison sentence.

Mr Gettleson's comments came as leading law professor Andrew Ashworthy called for an end to custodial sentencing for "property offences".

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