Convictions in ground breaking child rape case

24/10/2014

CPS East of England has obtained convictions at Basildon Crown Court, Essex, in a ground breaking rape case for the Area where the 11 year old victim was not called to give live evidence and was not cross examined by the defence.

Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor Frank Ferguson said: "This is the first time in the East of England that we were able to take this unprecedented step thanks to a new procedure with vulnerable witnesses which meant we could negotiate with the defence about the victim's evidence.

"These offences took place when the victim was just six years old; she is now 11 years and she was interviewed about what happened with the help of an intermediary to support her. The interview was filmed and later shown in court so the jury could hear in her own words the horrific abuse to which she was subjected.

"It was agreed that the nature of the questions that she would have been asked were not appropriate for a child to answer. As such, it was agreed between prosecution and defence, with the agreement of the judge, that after the film of her evidence was played to the jury, she would not be cross examined by the defence as normally happens.

"Instead, it was agreed that both defence QCs would effectively provide a mini speech on the reasons why they had not deemed it appropriate to cross examine the child; to explain what their case was; and what questions they would have been asking had it been deemed appropriate.

"This is the first time we have taken this step in the East of England and there have only been a handful of similar cases in England and Wales."

The defendants, a man and a woman, were sentenced to12 years and five and half years respectively. The man was convicted of three charges of rape of a child under 13 vaginal, anal and oral and one charge of child cruelty. The woman was convicted of three charges of causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity and one charge of child cruelty.

Mr Ferguson said: "This was a shocking case of abuse perpetrated on a young child over a period of time. We thought long and hard about the public interest in this case because of the effects of the prosecution process on a young child who has already suffered trauma.

"We decided the case should go ahead and the unusual steps we have taken to protect the child from the effects of cross-examination means that the defendants have still had a fair trial and that justice has been done.

"We have ensured that a dangerous sexual predator, and the woman who assisted him, has been locked up for a long time and we hope that this little girl can now look forward to a happier life."


NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Sec 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 allows victims' cross-examination to be pre-recorded and played to the court. There is currently a pilot scheme in Kingston, Liverpool, and Leeds Crown Courts where witnesses in those courts who are under 16 years and those with a mental or physical incapacity which is likely to result in their evidence being diminished, are eligible for the pilot.

2. So far during the pilot around half a dozen cases have used this.

3. In this case, it was considered pre-recording the cross-examination of the victim under Sec 28 but for the reasons given above it was decided it not appropriate and following discussions with the defence and with the agreement of the judge, the victim was not cross-examined.