New guidance for prosecutors shows courts are recognising the needs of victims are paramount
New guidance on how prosecutors should treat cases of child sexual abuse is another step towards putting victims at the centre of the criminal justice system, says Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner.
Under the guidelines, published by the Crown Prosecution Service today, prosecutors have been told to focus on the credibility of the evidence, not on any perceived weaknesses in the victims. It includes a list of myths of stereotypes around victims’ behaviour previously thought to undermine the credibility of young victims, so this can be challenged in court by prosecutors.
Kier Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, has said it ‘marks the most fundamental attitude shift across the Criminal Justice System for a generation’.
Tony said: “Victims of child sexual abuse have already made a brave step in coming forward and the criminal justice system has a duty to support them through the court process. Preconceived assumptions about how a victim is expected to behave have no place in a courtroom and only serve to undermine and humiliate them. A case should be tried on the credibility of the evidence, not the perceived weaknesses of the victim.
“Recent cases such as the tragic death of Frances Andrade starkly demonstrated how much of an ordeal giving evidence is and how the courts need to recognise that the needs of victims are paramount. That’s why I welcome the guidance published today and hope that all prosecutors will take this on board and challenge any such attitudes in court. This is another step towards ensuring the entire criminal justice process acts in the interests of victims.”
The CPS has also published a joint protocol outlining expectations for police and prosecutors to share information in child abuse cases with social services, child protection, schools and family courts.
“Working together is the only option. The only way we can protect vulnerable people and bring the vile perpetrators to justice is by working together and sharing information – it’s just common sense. Schools, family courts and child protection services may hold information that can greatly bolster a police investigation and we need to build on the partnership working to make sure police and prosecutors leave no stone unturned and we get it right for victims every time.”