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Live webchat with Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, Tuesday 13 March, 9.30-10.30am

(130 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 12-Mar-12 14:05:01

As part of our week supporting our 'We Believe You' campaign, we're very pleased to welcome Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosections, for a webchat on Tuesday, 13 March at 9.30am. He'll be happy to address questions raised by 'We Believe You'.

Keir was called to the Bar in 1987 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002. Before being appointed DPP, his main areas of practice were human rights, international law, judicial review and criminal law. He was named QC of the Year in the field of human rights and public law in 2007 by the Chambers & Partners directory, and in 2005 he won the Bar Council's Sydney Elland Goldsmith award for his outstanding contribution to pro bono work in challenging the death penalty throughout the Caribbean and also in Uganda, Kenya and Malawi.

He was appointed as Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the Crown Prosecution Service in November 2008. Since being appointed, Keir has spoken publicly about the need to improve the way we prosecute cases of violence against women and girls. The second annual CPS Lecture was given by Baroness Stern on "The crime of rape and justice for victims". In April last year, Keir made a speech about "Domestic Violence: The facts, the issues, the future".

Keir is married and has two children: a son aged three, and a daughter aged one.

Because of Keir's professional responsibilities, the CPS has asked us to make a few things clear. Prosecutors take a case from pre-charge (giving the police advice in a complex investigation) through to verdict. The CPS authorises charges in serious or complex cases, including all charges of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence. Keir will be happy to address general questions raised by the We Believe You campaign, but please be aware that he won't be able to discuss the specifics of any cases, including those that are currently under investigation or going through the courts. Sentencing itself is a matter for the judiciary rather than the CPS, and as such it would be difficult for Keir to discuss the specifics of sentencing in any case. Finally (and somewhat obviously), changes in the law are a matter for Parliament rather than for Keir himself.

Do please join us on Tuesday at 9.30am for the webchat. If you can't join us live, please post up your questions for Keir here in advance.

Crumblemum Mon 12-Mar-12 16:33:55

Why do you think some police forces do better than others? Is it just down to local leadership? I heard that Kent police have one of the highest 'no crime' rates in the country (where they say 'oh sorry that doesn't seem to be worth pursuing'). What can we do to make the pull up their socks

ooh, this is exciting!

Re: Abu Qatada. Here's what I understand. Based on the HRA, and/or the ECHR, he cannot be deported because of the potential of torture/degrading treatment in addition to potentially not getting a fair trial in Jordan.

However the Home Secretary, Theresa May has recently visited Jordan to seek assurances from their government.

My question is what is the threshold in terms of the lengths a government need to go to in order to comply with the HRA/ECHR.

Thank you.

Crumblemum Mon 12-Mar-12 16:36:56

Also - does the CPS do anything/ have any say in courts? If so - should/ could judges give more direction about what to think about (and what not to think about eg some of the myth stuff in this campaign) at the start of the trial?

justalittleinsane Mon 12-Mar-12 16:43:02

I would like to know why there is the ridiculous step of sendin a rapist to magistrates merely for him to be committed to crown.

He doesn't even enter a plea at magistrates and it is simply a paper pushing exercise causing more delays for the victims and I assume increasing the costs of the case for the court.

A months wait for a CPS charging decision, a future 2 weeks for rapist to return from bail, another month to get to magistrates, followed by 6 week wait for a PCMH. Then at least 5 months from the PCMH for Crown - and that's in a good week.

So it's a minimum of 10 months just to get to court.

So my actual question is 2 fold.

A) why the antiquated magistrates court step
And
B) do you think those timescales are acceptable in situations where he police investigation is completed at early stages

KeirStarmer Mon 12-Mar-12 16:43:09

TEST

painterlyswoosh Mon 12-Mar-12 16:52:42

In your opinion, is rape a crime that is by its nature dramatically "different" in how it should be prosecuted?

This is an issue that often comes up in discussion of this topic. The argument being that whether or not sex is rape depends solely on whether or not one party says no - and it is almost always impossible to get evidence that doesn't end up being his word against hers/his.

Do you agree with this argument and the conclusion that it should be treated differently by prosecutors?

Roseformeplease Mon 12-Mar-12 17:22:19

In the light of a really interesting article in today's Times, do you think more should be done to encourage male victims of rape to feel comfortable coming forward, as well as making it easier for women?

LineRunner Mon 12-Mar-12 18:52:42

Keir,

Hello and thank you very much for being here.

I do not understand why in rape cases, the defence counsel seems to be able to pursue aggressively the line that if the alleged victim has told a lie, even about an unrelated matter, then that means they could [reasonably] be lying about the allegation that is before the court.

I do not see this in any other type of crime.

Does this, in your view, frustrate the interests of justice?

LR

NormaStanleyFletcher Mon 12-Mar-12 18:53:03

Hi Kier,

I like baroness Stern's lecture, and the idea that the victim should be given the protection of legal representation; I understand that this is outside your remit however.

So my question:-

If money were no object (haha) what changes do you think could be made to the processes and workings of the CPS in order to bring more rape cases to court, or to better support and communicate with the victims of this violent crime?

DarrowbyEightFive Mon 12-Mar-12 19:08:56

There have been all too many cases of (sexual) violence against women and girls in recent years where the judges have made what many regard as appallingly ignorant comments and decisions - some of them seem to be fully paid up members of the 'she was asking for it' brigade. It gives large swathes of the population the impression that these judges are stuck somewhere in the 1950s. Why are more judges not chosen who represent society as a whole and more sane progressive opinions? What comeback is there for judges who seem to propagate the outdated attitudes that have underpinned sexual violence for too long?

LineRunner Mon 12-Mar-12 19:12:24

Keir, given the provisos alluded to in RowenMN's original post, and the comments above, what influence do you have?

fiftieshousewife Mon 12-Mar-12 19:54:54

Hello

Big fan of yours! grin

Given that you seem to have very strong views on various things, do you find the formal limitations of the DPP role frustrating? Are you ever tempted to move into politics?

My question is following on from Darrowby's really. How do you think that overly lenient sentencing and comments from judges perpetuating rape myths in cases such as this can be avoided in the future?

Nyac Mon 12-Mar-12 21:09:57

Are you concerned by the number of rape victims being prosecuted for supposedly making false reports of rape, and what effect do you think those prosecutions will have on rape victims coming forward, given how few we know do at the moment out of the number of women actually raped.

LindsayWagner Mon 12-Mar-12 21:59:33

Hello Keir, it's great that your here - I'm a critical admirer (the best kind.)

I've got a couple of questions. The fact that so many reported rapes never even make it to court is a contributory factor to women not reporting rape - it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sometimes, it's because the police 'no crime' cases - but the CPS have also acknowledged that they tend not to prosecute 'difficult' cases, where the victim had been drinking, flirting, in a previous sexual relationship with the defendant, sexually active, had consented to some other sexual activity etc - in other words, cases which don't conform to precisely the same Rape Myths which Mumsnet is campaigning about.

These cases form the bulk of reported rapes. I don't buy the argument that the CPS can do nothing about this, that they're just being realistic about the chances of a jury convicting. So, what will the CPS be doing - either overtly or behind the scenes - to ensure rape myths are challenged in court?

My second question: how can women's confidence be improved when the media focuses so relentlessly on the proportionately very low incidences of false reporting, and sexualises so many other cases?

LindsayWagner Mon 12-Mar-12 22:02:43

One more - why can't the judge advise the jury at the beginning of proceedings, rather than at the end? By that time it's too late - they've already heard all the evidence through the filter of the rape myths that we know so many members of the public believe. If myths are to be challenged, surely it should happen at the start?

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 12-Mar-12 22:18:36

Hello Keir

Barnardo's is one of the organisations which we're supporting, as part of our We Believe You campaign. They've asked us to pass on a couple of questions.

Firstly, we know that many children find giving evidence in court a very difficult, and sometimes harmful process; how can we make the court process work better for victims of child sexual exploitation?

and

What can be done to tackle the low rate of prosecutions brought to court and even lower number of convictions for child sexual exploitation?

Thanks, on their behalf!

LeninGrad Mon 12-Mar-12 22:48:36

Is there any recourse when judges come out with the most appalling nonsense? I am often really shocked by the things some of them say with regard to women and girls who are raped and sexually assualted and it just seems astonishing that no action is seemingly taken.

Ditto for the press, what can be done when falsehoods are propagated there? Probably out of your remit but someone else might know. Keep up the good work, things are slowly going in the right direction.

CathAlfred Tue 13-Mar-12 06:41:50

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 13-Mar-12 08:21:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dollymixtures Tue 13-Mar-12 08:36:20

CathAlfred - erm, no. You might want to have a look at the "we believe you" thread or the relationships board to see how infrequently women are attacked because of their clothing hmm

Keir, another admirer here! How do you think the high recidivism rate for rape and dv could be addressed?

LapsusLinguae Tue 13-Mar-12 08:56:19

I seem to remember reading that all cases of "false rape allegation" (perverting the course of justice) - are now passed personally to you for review.

Can you confirm this and can you also reassure people that if the police fail to find enough corroborating evidence of rape that this does not equal a false rape allegation?

What sort of evidence exists that these false rape allegations are indeed false - particularly when we know that some factors that the public might think are persuasive of this are in fact rape myths (delay in reporting/not telling anyone else/retracting due to threat of violence/continuing a relationship with the rapist). The Daily Mail some papers LOVE these stories and report them out of proportion with rape cases - what can be done about that?

TheStandard Tue 13-Mar-12 09:25:26

I'm very cross about the cosy corrupt relationship some journalists seem to have with the Met police. What kind of contact/passing on of info do you think is appropriate, and what kind of controls are needed to stop a Hackgate situtation developing again?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Mar-12 09:26:15

Am pleased to say Keir is here at the Towers and almost ready to go.

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