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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.

strangerwithmyface Tue 13-Mar-12 09:27:10

Do you think people should have the right to die What are your thoughts on yesterday's much publicised case?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 13-Mar-12 09:27:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TunipTheVegemal Tue 13-Mar-12 09:27:48

I don't have any questions because everything I wanted to know has been asked already but thank you very much to Keir for making the time to come and do this.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 13-Mar-12 09:29:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Nyac Tue 13-Mar-12 09:31:23

Morning Keir, thanks for coming to Mumsnet to talk to us about this.

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:31:52

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to Mumsnet. I'm here to chat about the Mumsnet 'we believe you' rape awareness campaign. I should say that I fully support the campaign. Myths and stereo types have bedevilled rape cases for far too long and they are by very definition deeply entrenched and hard to shift but the campaign will help us and others to confront them. At the CPS we have trained our staff and the police to focus only the facts of the case, and make no assumptions about behaviour. When we get to court we do our best to persuade judges to give direction to the jury to take the same approach.

Having had a quick look at the thread, perhaps I should address linerunner's question straight away - as DPP I am head of the CPS and we advise the police during an investigation (if asked), decide who should be charged and with what and then bring the case to court, which means we are the gateway to the criminal justice system in all rape cases.

TheMulberryTree Tue 13-Mar-12 09:34:25

Morning Keir.
My Q is: Is it possible for cases to remain subjudice from the moment of arrest, given the internet and how easy it is for information to get out. Do you think we'll move to a situation (as in the US) where those arrested are immediately named in the press?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:36:38

I have personally taken a lead on rape and violence against women because the statistics are of such concern. So I decided last year to visit every single CPS office and have a personal discussion with each of our teams of specialist rape prosecutors, and in that way, I have become deeply familiar with the difficult issues that confront rape victims and those trying to bring cases to court. I also personally host meetings with groups (usually women's groups) concerned about rape, many of which evolve around the personal details of cases they are concerned about. Before I was DPP I also represented rape victims on a number of occasions.

StewieGriffinsMom

What, if any, personal experiences do you have which led you to publicly support the We Believe You campaign?

I'm sorry if that's too personal. It's that feminists are frequently attacked for not involving men more but as men, as a group, don't usually engage with these issues I'd like to know what we can do.

Voidka Tue 13-Mar-12 09:36:44

I wonder if Keir could explain to us his feelings about the Gary McKinnon case?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:38:39

I understand your point, but I don't think the rules are about to change. The internet raises some very serious challenges for our criminal justice system- most of which are only being worked through now- your point will certainly come up in those debates.

TheMulberryTree

Morning Keir.
My Q is: Is it possible for cases to remain subjudice from the moment of arrest, given the internet and how easy it is for information to get out. Do you think we'll move to a situation (as in the US) where those arrested are immediately named in the press?

spamfilter Tue 13-Mar-12 09:40:27

Rape is massively under-reported, as we know, but sexual assault even more so. This is only anecdotal, but I know of almost no woman who has not been exposed to - it's happened to me on three occasions, including once on the London underground! Yet I never reported any of these, not least because I was young at the time. I realise these encounters are often fleeting and so it would be difficult to arrest and charge men - yet this kind of affront or assault is on a continuum with other forms of violence against women, including rape.

Is there any recourse for women who find themselves in this situation? What would you recommend? Is there any point in contacting the police given the dismal rate of conviction for the much more serious crime of rape?

Darleneconnor Tue 13-Mar-12 09:43:57

Hi, I recently attended a conference about sexual assault referral centres in Scotland. A few issues came out from it:
The police officers there said that since they had created specialist teams to deal with sex crimes they had become more skilled and this policy had reduced the attrition rate of cases- is this model being used by CPS and if not will you be doing something to push for this model?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:44:28

Myths and stereotypes have no place in a criminal justice system and we the CPS do actively challenge them. I agree with you that many cases of the type you mention do arise, and I can reassure you that we do take those cases to court. One problem we all face ius that the media rarely focuses on the success , and so its only failures that are ever really reported. We the CPS have taken a very hard line on myths and stereotypes in the last years.

As for, false reporting, this is in fact very rare indeed and a very, very small percentage of the rape allegations made, fall into this category. We now have very clear policy about these cases which i think and I hope has met with a good deal of public approval.

LindsayWagner

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?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:46:22

We have had specialist rape teams within the CPS for several years now. I am a complete fan, and think they have made a real difference. In many areas there is also a specialist police unit, but unfortunately not in all. My own view is clear, where there is a specialist CPS team and a specialist Police team working together the results are better.

Darleneconnor

Hi, I recently attended a conference about sexual assault referral centres in Scotland. A few issues came out from it:
The police officers there said that since they had created specialist teams to deal with sex crimes they had become more skilled and this policy had reduced the attrition rate of cases- is this model being used by CPS and if not will you be doing something to push for this model?

DoomCatsofCognitiveDissonance Tue 13-Mar-12 09:47:11

Hello, thanks for doing this. If this is too personal, please don't worry - if you or someone you knew had been raped, what would your best advice to them be about how to deal emotionally with what would happen in the legal system?

Do you feel the emotional care of rape victims is the responsibility of the legal system, or not?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:48:40

Thanks for this, the answer is please to report this kind of behaviour which I know is far too prevalent. Very rarely does someone expose themselves only once, and if as many people as possible report the incidents, we and the police an try and join the dots. So please report.

spamfilter

Rape is massively under-reported, as we know, but sexual assault even more so. This is only anecdotal, but I know of almost no woman who has not been exposed to - it's happened to me on three occasions, including once on the London underground! Yet I never reported any of these, not least because I was young at the time. I realise these encounters are often fleeting and so it would be difficult to arrest and charge men - yet this kind of affront or assault is on a continuum with other forms of violence against women, including rape.

Is there any recourse for women who find themselves in this situation? What would you recommend? Is there any point in contacting the police given the dismal rate of conviction for the much more serious crime of rape?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:50:00

This case is with the hOme Secretary at the moment, so you'll understand that I can't comment on it. Apologies but the CPS does not have the McKinnon case on its desk at the moment.

Voidka

I wonder if Keir could explain to us his feelings about the Gary McKinnon case?

CMOTDibbler Tue 13-Mar-12 09:50:21

Do you think there is anything that can be done to improve prosecution rates for women who are sexually abused as part of domestic violence ? Anecdotally at least, it seems that women who go through this are not supported well, or taken seriously enough.

Also, do you have any feeling as to whether those who are seen at a specialist sexual assult centre get a higher prosecution rate than people who go to a regular police unit ?

ComradeJing Tue 13-Mar-12 09:52:08

Hi Keir, What do you think is the one thing that can be done to raise the percentage of rape convictions?

Best, Comrade

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:53:05

It is the responsibility of the legal system along with others. I have learnt that expertise in emotional support is what is really needed. And where the legal system can't itself provide that it should make sure its available from others.

To be frank, I don't know what advise I'd give if someone close to me had been raped. I think these things are intensely personal and individual.

DoomCatsofCognitiveDissonance

Hello, thanks for doing this. If this is too personal, please don't worry - if you or someone you knew had been raped, what would your best advice to them be about how to deal emotionally with what would happen in the legal system?

Do you feel the emotional care of rape victims is the responsibility of the legal system, or not?

slug Tue 13-Mar-12 09:53:27

Hi Keir

When you have time, I suggest you check out the #ididnotreport hashtag on twitter. There are just so many examples of women being sexually assaulted, sometimes in full view of the police, and no action being taken. It also shows the prevalence of a denial culture by the police and authorities.

DoomCatsofCognitiveDissonance Tue 13-Mar-12 09:54:18

Thanks Keir.

Darleneconnor Tue 13-Mar-12 09:54:31

Do you think that the British adversarial system of justice is disadvantageous to rape victims compared to the inquisitorial systems of continental Europe (which have higher conviction rates)? Could special 'rape courts' help in this?

SardineQueen Tue 13-Mar-12 09:56:15

I am interested in the question upthread about how the accused has a legal team but the victim is no more than a witness and so if not close to the prosecutor and has no-one there "on her side".

What can be done about this? It sounds like a lonely and scary place to be. If the accused has a legal team to look after his interests why not the victim?

KeirStarmer Tue 13-Mar-12 09:56:18

No one thing, but here's a few starters for ten; enhance public confidence by having a rapid and specialist police response. Gather evidence as early as humanly possible. Have well equipped sexual assault referral clinics, in as many places as possible. Encourage the police to take early advise from the CPS, . Make sure all cases are dealt with by specialists and have a honest discussion with the victim about the support they would like in court.

ComradeJing

Hi Keir, What do you think is the one thing that can be done to raise the percentage of rape convictions?

Best, Comrade

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