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DPP discusses the interim guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse


Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, discusses the interim guidelines on prosecuting cases of child sexual abuse.

"I would like to draw your attention to the guidelines on child sexual abuse cases that the Crown Prosecution Service has recently published.

"These follow extensive consultations with the police, and some very productive round-table discussions with colleagues who've got an expertise or interest in this area.

"The guidelines are intended to set up and show a marked and different approach to the way that we prosecute these cases.

"The central theme is that prosecutors should look at the allegation actually being made, rather than focussing too intently on the perceived weaknesses and vulnerabilities of victims. After all, if somebody comes into a police station to report that there's been a burglary, we don't ask - as a first question - whether they're telling the truth. Nor should we with victinms of child sexual abuse.

"The Guidelines also deal with the support that victims can expect and make clear issues such as whether they can have counselling, whether they can know about other allegations and what support they might have at trial.

"But equally, the guidelines make clear that the suspect's account is to be looked at as carefully as the victims' - all the background intelligence,  background allegations and links should be made to build the case, if that's the appropriate thing to do.

"I'm pleased to say that we've been working with others, and other initiatives have been launched at roughly the same time, for example, the  piloting of cross-examination of victims in advance of trial.

"Now, as we go forward, it's important that we're joined up with other government departments, with voluntary groups and agencies that provide valuable support.

"But most of all, and most importantly, the consultation is now open to the public for their views. What I want to avoid is finding out in five or ten years that there are shortcomings and weaknesses in the guidelines that could have been identified now, so please let me have your views."