Prosecution Successes

Step-grandfather jailed for sexual abuse

In 2015 the 14-year-old victim disclosed that he had been sexually abused by his 62-year-old step-grandfather. At around the age of 6 or 7 years old he would regularly spend time with his step-grandfather. He described him as devious and controlling; he would act like everything was normal when others were around but when he was alone with him he was sexually abused by him. The defendant made threats to the young boy that if he ever told anyone about what had occurred he would kill his family and told him that he was naughty. The victim changed his name as a result of the abuse. Further to the disclosure by the boy, his mother also made disclosures that she was groomed by the suspect in 1994 from the age of 14 whilst she was having a relationship with the defendant’s step-son. She was vulnerable due to her own troubled home life and the defendant took advantage of grooming her whilst she was in a relationship with his step-son to the extent that she submitted to having sex with him. In police interview the defendant denied the allegations claiming the mother had manipulated her son to make the allegations. The Indictment contained a number of sexual offences including rape. Following a full trial, the defendant was sentenced at Warwick Crown Court on 25 September to a total of 20 years' imprisonment.

Man jailed for sexual abusing foster child

The 40-year-old defendant and his wife were the foster parents of the victim who was placed with them by social services from October 2015 aged 15.  At that time she had one infant child and went on to have a further child whilst in placement, having been pregnant when fostered. The defendant at the time was also working as a Residential Social Worker. The offences came to light after the defendant and the victim were in essence caught by the defendant’s wife after she was woken by her husband getting back into the marital bed in the early hours of 7 May 2017. She then found his clothing in the bathroom and his underpants by the door to the victim’s bedroom. The defendant attended a police station later the same day and disclosed to officers that he had engaged in sexual activity with his foster daughter. The victim was spoken to by police and confirmed that they had been in a sexual relationship since October 2016, when she had turned 16. She declined to provide any further detail and stated she did not want the defendant to be prosecuted. The defendant accepted that he had received safeguarding training as a foster carer and social worker and that he knew that what he was doing was wrong.  He stated that had they not have been caught the relationship would have continued. The defendant was convicted of four offences of Sexual Activity with a Child Family Member. On 12 September 2017 the defendant was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years, with a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement for 30 days. The Court of Appeal agreed that the sentence was unduly lenient and increased it to one of imprisonment for three years and 10 months.

 

CPS West Midlands - RASSO Unit

The West Midlands CPS Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO) Unit is committed to improving the way in which we prosecute rape, serious sexual offences, child abuse, child sexual exploitation and Female Genital Mutilation.

These types of offences have their own particular sensitivities and we want to improve public confidence in the way in which we review and progress cases of this nature.

As these cases are often complex, involving difficult and sensitive family relationships and it was decided that such cases should be managed by specialised lawyers and support staff who have received the appropriate training. The cases at court needed to be dealt with by Barristers and Advocates who had the appropriate experience and ability and who had received the proper training.

With this in mind, the Area's RASSO Unit was first formed in 2008 in Birmingham. In December 2012 the Unit was centralised to include all the work from the West Midlands metropolitan area, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and West Mercia. In April 2015 The West Midlands Area took responsibility for all of the British Transport Police's rape and serious sexual assault cases which we prepare from our Birmingham office.

All the following types of criminal offences are referred to the RASSO Unit:

  • Rape
  • Serious sexual offences
  • Child abuse including child neglect and cruelty
  • Indecent photographs
  • Extreme pornography
  • Honour Crimes
  • FGM
  • Sexual abuse of vulnerable adults including those committed within a care facility
  • Homicides where the victims are under the age of 16

The West Midlands RASSO Unit are a dedicated and specialised team chosen because they possess the requisite experience of prosecution work and have demonstrated a commitment and interest in dealing with these difficult and often traumatic cases. They all have a great deal of understanding of the sensitivities of prosecuting cases of this nature and how difficult and harrowing it can be for a victim from the first step of making a complaint to the police, through to giving evidence in a trial.

The team comes from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some spent many years in defence doing criminal, family or social work before joining the CPS. All of the lawyers have experience prosecuting cases in either the Magistrates' or the Crown Court. All prosecutors have undertaken relevant training courses around rape and serious sexual offences, youth offenders, FGM, domestic violence awareness and victim and witness training. The Barristers and Advocates who prosecute RASSO work have had to attend a mandatory rape training course. Due to this level of expertise, every case of rape is now handled by a rape specialist who will advise and have responsibility for that case from the pre charge advice through to the case at court.

The common factor with the team is that they are all committed to this area of work. They are dedicated to working with the police and other support agencies to build the best cases possible. As a Service, we are committed to providing the best level of support to victims and witnesses.

The following demonstrate some of the tools which are available to victims and witnesses:

Special measures

There are variety of things a court can do to enable the victims and witnesses experience in court to be more comfortable to help them give the best evidence possible. If granted by the Judge a witness can give evidence behind a screen in court, give evidence over a live TV link or have the original video recorded interview with the police played as their evidence in chief.

If children are involved then Barristers and Judges can remove their wigs and gowns. An independent intermediary can also sit with the victim and witness to assist them with the process if they are particularly vulnerable or if they have particular difficulties.

Witnesses will also have the opportunity to use the services of the Witness Care Units. This can include a court familiarization visit or a pre-trial meeting with the advocate who will be dealing with the case in court.

The use of Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAS) and support from other specialist teams are set up to assist, provide advice and support to victims throughout the prosecution process. There are many other organizations which will also assist and aid victims. The RASSO staff work and maintain links with any agency that provides support to victims and witnesses.

Pre Trial Witness Interview

This is a process in which a specially trained lawyer can conduct an interview with a witness or victim to enable the lawyer to reach a better informed decision about an aspect of a case.

Our lawyers have conducted a number of such interviews and the feedback from the witnesses who have participated have been positive. The meeting has enabled them to feel part of the process and they have felt that they have been kept informed. This is particularly the case if, after the interview, a decision is made not to proceed as the case no longer meets the evidential test.

Anonymity

As a matter of law, victims of rape and serious sexual offence are entitled to anonymity in the media, even if their name is given in court. Witnesses' addresses are not disclosed to defendants and will not, as a rule, be mentioned in the court room.

Questioning in the trial

The Barrister/advocate in court should and can challenge offensive and irrelevant questioning and deal with inappropriate cross examination of the victim about any previous sexual experience.

Direct communication with victim and witnesses

Every attempt will be made to keep victims and witnesses informed of what is happening with their case. This is done by our dedicated Witness Care Unit or by the lawyer or paralegal officer direct by a letter or a meeting with the victim after or during the case.

We always ask the police to see the victim to obtain a victim impact statement to put before the court when an offender is sentenced so that the effect of the offence on the victim is clearly stated.

Victims should not be suffering in silence as there is a lot of support. We need victims and witnesses to be brave and have the courage to report the crimes. Then, through the constant dedication of the professionals, more offenders can be brought to justice.

Female Genital Mutilation

Your local CPS is committed to working with our partner agencies and victims together in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

FGM is a collective term for a range of procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is sometimes referred to as female circumcision, or female genital cutting.

The FGM Act 2003 makes it illegal for such practices to be performed in the United Kingdom. It is also an offence for UK nationals or permanent UK residents to carry out, or aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad on a UK national or permanent UK resident, even in countries where the practice is legal.

If you are a victim of such abuse or know someone carrying out such illegal practices, then please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the NPSCC's FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550.