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Live webchat about rape and violence against women, with Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, Wednesday 5 December, 1pm

(94 Posts)
FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 30-Nov-12 13:26:25

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer first joined us for a webchat in March this year to support our 'We Believe You' campaign. Nine months on, he has agreed to come back for a LIVE webchat on Wednesday 5 December at 1pm to update us on what the CPS is doing to take a lead on rape and violence against women. Keir is happy to try to address any questions that were not fully answered in the last webchat but will focus on the CPS's progress on:

* The measures that have been put in place to support victims and witnesses of rape and sexual assault.

* The CPS's progress on handling accusations of/convictions for women falsely alleging rape. On false allegations, Keir said: "For the past year I have put in special arrangements for all cases of false allegations which has required them to be handled at CPS HQ. We are now requiring all Chief Crown Prosecutors personally to have sight of these cases and continuing CPS HQ oversight through quality reports."

* Victims being treated as guilty until proven innocent.

* The massive number of unreported rapes. Keir said: "It's our job to try and increase confidence in people to come forward. It's a big task but it's a must."

* What the CPS is doing to help the court process work better for victims of child sexual exploitation.

Keir was called to the Bar in 1987 and appointed Queen's Counsel in 2002. 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. Keir is married with two children.

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, 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 Wednesday 1pm for the webchat. If you can't join us live, please post up your questions here in advance.

Thanks
MNHQ

SirEdmundFrillary Fri 30-Nov-12 15:56:39

Dear Keir,

How do you treat members of the CPS who are victims of sexual assault and rape?

SirEdmundFrillary Fri 30-Nov-12 16:47:22

and/or rape.

SirEdmundFrillary Tue 04-Dec-12 14:35:52

Last week on Radio 4‘s ‘Today’ programme a solicitor who represents abuse victims spoke about the CPS’s attitude of dismissiveness.

In my experience he’s right. Hearing it was upsetting but a relief. I don’t want to explain my own situation here.

With institutional racism organisations had to dig deep and to me this seems similar.

So my 2nd question is, what do you think of that?

timeforachangebaby Tue 04-Dec-12 16:45:51

How can victims who feel Stonewalled in their own cases get better answers? Ie victim has a question, the answer from OIC is - "that's a CPS decision I don't know" but a victim cannot speak to CPS to get answers to their questions and the police not seeing it as their job to question CPS.

DyeInTheEar Tue 04-Dec-12 17:58:28

Do you agree that "jokes" like the one in FHM do little to help the attitude towards victims of these types of crime.

here

unrulysun Tue 04-Dec-12 20:38:40

And in relation to the above do you agree that the campaigns which send the message that women should stop getting themselves raped are equally unhelpful?

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 04-Dec-12 21:12:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AbigailAdams Tue 04-Dec-12 21:35:56

I am with SGM here. Do you have these measures in place for the false allegations of any other crime? And how do you think these special measures are helping with the inherent misogyny and attitudes towards women reporting domestic abuse and rape throughout the law enforcement and court systems, which lets face it, is why report rates are so low?

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Tue 04-Dec-12 21:51:50

Yes, what are these 'special arrangements', and why?

What would you say to a friend of mine who was in court last week as a witness giving evidence against her husband who assaulted her? Although the people from Victim Support were very supportive, and arranged for her to give evidence via video link, my friend had no idea about the legal process.

She was scared, overwhelmed and frightened. She spoke to the CPS prosecutor for about 5 minutes before court which really wasn't enough time.

Seems to me there would be scope for having an amicus type person to represent the victim and their interests, especially in domestic abuse cases as she felt her voice wasn't being heard on the same legal footing as the defendant.

fiventhree Tue 04-Dec-12 22:43:32

Agree that the ordering of the points for discussion could have been more sensitive!

madeiracake Tue 04-Dec-12 22:47:18

given that, as I understand it, in the overwhelming majority of rape cases - or perhaps more accurately cases of rape, including those which do not make it to court - the defendant is guilty but there is insufficient evidence to convict, has the introduction of a 'not proven' verdict ever been considered, and if so, why was it turned down?

It would seem more accurately to reflect the unprovability which is a central problem in the relationship between rape and the law and prevent victims from suffering the additional (considerable) psychological trauma of not being believed in court - would you agree?

AbigailAdams Tue 04-Dec-12 22:48:16

It seems to me that these special arrangements are once more singling out rape as a special/different crime. But more importantly they seem to tackling the symptoms rather than the cause, if not actually perpetuating the problem of low report/conviction rates. The cause of low report/conviction rates is because women aren't believed in society and that is misogynistic. Tackling "false" allegations either by prosecution of the woman or by establishing that she hasn't actually made a false allegation is not tackling why officers of the law think women lie. It isn't tackling any of the many other rape myths and attitudes of society towards women.

As implementors and co-creators (or at least at some consultation level) of the law you are in a unique position of being able to influence the greater society for the better in this matter. Emphasising a rape myth and a symptom of attitudes and values doesn't seem to me to be a very good way of tackling the real problem.

Offred Tue 04-Dec-12 23:07:00

I think what is key to reducing levels of rape and sexual assault is improving understanding of the law on consent. It is frequently mis or not understood generally in society and I think that the govt ads aimed at young people, who are the group who experience the highest levels of violence, are a good move but they are not clear enough e.g. They perpetuate the myth that unless she says no it isn't rape in the minds of people who don't understand consent, and they are not adequate.

The cps guidelines on the law on sexual offences are very clear but unfortunately not known about or accepted by a significant number of people I think. Are there any plans to promote the guidelines or educate children about the law on consent?

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 00:03:13

Does it concern you (or is there a reasoning behind) the fact you single out 'women' who falsely allege rape? Do men never falsely allege rape? How much research has been put into this? Or do you just assume it's more important to focus on women as a sop to the rape myth that false accusations are very common?

beth12345 Wed 05-Dec-12 00:47:38

Re the massive numbers of unreported rapes - I recently provided police with some information about my ex partner who raped me a number of times. I provided the information as police intelligence as I did not want to deal with an investigation.
It proved really difficult to establish whether it was actually possible to provide intelligence in this sort of situation. The person I spoke to when I first called Rape Crisis had no idea whether it would be possible. However, when I eventually did speak to the police (through Rape Crisis) it transpired that they do have other women who choose to provide intelligence alone (as opposed to making allegations).
If it is useful for women to provide this type of intelligence, why is there not more awareness that it is an option for someone who has been raped?

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 05:53:08

The End Violence Against Women Coalition reports that 1/3 of girls aged 16-18 have experienced sexual assault or sexual bullying in schools.

School is likely the time where young men and boys form lifelong attitudes to violence against women.

What is the CPS doing/what further role can it play in preventing/prosecuting sexual assault in schools?

MistressFord Wed 05-Dec-12 07:52:39

DH is a CPS Prosecutor and prosecutes DV and rape cases. There have been lots of administrative and structural changes at the CPS as well as cuts in the number of prosecutors. He rarely has sufficient time to prepare cases before the trial and does not feel that he can do his job properly and fairly represent the victim. How does the DPP intend to address this to ensure that all victims of crime get a good service from the CPS.

MistressFord Wed 05-Dec-12 07:52:39

DH is a CPS Prosecutor and prosecutes DV and rape cases. There have been lots of administrative and structural changes at the CPS as well as cuts in the number of prosecutors. He rarely has sufficient time to prepare cases before the trial and does not feel that he can do his job properly and fairly represent the victim. How does the DPP intend to address this to ensure that all victims of crime get a good service from the CPS.

Sunnywithachanceofshowers Wed 05-Dec-12 09:41:48

A dear friend was raped by her husband and withdrew the allegation because he threatened her at knifepoint. When she was raped by a stranger some years later, the police did not investigate because they decided she was obviously a liar.

How does your department intend to help women like my friend? And can you see how your emphasis on false allegations is very harmful to people like my friend? Twice justice has been denied to her.

gherkingirl Wed 05-Dec-12 10:41:02

Following on from what sunnywithachanceofshowers said, when are the other crimes committed around rape and sexual assault going to be prosecuted too? Why wasn't that man charged with threats to kill when he threatened her at knifepoint?

Rape and sexual assault seem to be a licence to commit crime because only that element is focused on. In my first rape, he falsely imprisoned me, threatened to kill me or permanently scar me, threatened the other women in my house and intimidated me for months afterwards. The police didn't even acknowledge those aspects. How can you prove a rape when the authorities don't let you mention that you were being physically restrained or locked in a room but talk in vague terms about consent?

It means only half the information is being presented and no wonder juries hesitate to convict on that. There was a case of a man being raped on a towpath near (I think) Southampton a few years back where charges of false imprisonment and kidnap were added on. There was a conviction and a long sentence. I've never heard of it in a woman's case and I feel this is yet another way we are being failed by the police & CPS.

I was told I was 'unladylike' when I repeated some of what my rapist had threatened to do to me...

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 05-Dec-12 11:05:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 05-Dec-12 11:08:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

snowshapes Wed 05-Dec-12 11:18:58

Thank you for taking the time to do this webchat. I'm a regular but have name-changed here.

My question: is there any point in reporting a historic rape case? What do you do in such circumstances?

What I have read on the Rape Crisis website and the Scottish government website (though I am guessing that the DPP has only responsibility for England?) talks about what you do when you are raped, but I am dealing with something which happened nearly 13 years ago, which I did not deal with at the time because I had two recent close bereavements and no family support and I just seem to have repressed it, because it was too much to deal with, till it re-surfaced this summer in my mind, to my distress. I’m guessing as there is no evidence, apart from what I am saying, there is no case, even if I wanted to bring one.

To complicate matters, the person who did it is not British, they are not resident in this country any more. So, personally I am not sure what, if anything, one could do here. But if you could answer my general question above, I would really appreciate it.

snowshapes Wed 05-Dec-12 11:30:03

Some more general comments:

I would second StewieGriffinsMom about the Scottish campaign. I was actually going to link it myself, but she beat me to it. It helps define consent, and gives men the responsibility of ensuring that they understand what it is and whether they actually have it.

I'm also going to second the point DyeintheEar made about rape culture. If it is acceptable to joke about rape, it normalises it.

Also, I agree with the other posters who have criticised the order of the points you wish/your office wishes to make. If you prioritise false allegations of rape over the very much larger number of unreported rapes and the treatment of the very much larger number of rape victims, who do come forward, it is really not surprising that women don't come forward.

Finally, and this is just a personal comment, I am shocked now at the extent to which I managed to repress what had happened to me. But I remember it now as clearly as if it happened last week, and I know that it did happen. That is why I think it is important that our culture does not normalise rape, that it does not blame the victim, and that it becomes easier for people who are raped to recognise that what has been done to them is wrong, to find the words to talk about it, and to find support, at whatever stage afterwards.

timeforachangebaby Wed 05-Dec-12 11:47:10

I wanted to add, I know you cant talk about specific cases, but having now been involved for over a year as a secondary victim, the current system, dis-empowers victims, to the point it is disrespectful, if I had know what our family was getting into, I would never have come forward and if anything was to ever happen again, I personally, and on behalf of my children would never come forward again, we are let down every step of the way by almost every organisation we deal with.

It is clear that public sector budget cuts are impacting on SS, the police and the CPS, as well as CAHMS etc, there is a complete lack of multi agency working and the only agency willing to go out on a limb is a charity on a 3 year contract.

This may be an improved system, but from my experience it fails at every point and the rights of the perpetrator outweigh those of the victim each step of the way.

And "multi-agency" working, it simply doesn't exist.

Offred Wed 05-Dec-12 12:04:01

FWIW I think the rights of someone accused of a crime should always be the concern of the criminal justice system but I think it is common to feel let down as a victim of any crime because people don't understand the law or how it functions well. It causes unnecessary distress to victims who feel attacked all over again by the adversarial court system. It could be avoided to a large extent by better education about law and the legal system before someone is a victim of crime and better explanations of these things by the system of reporting.

vigglewiggle Wed 05-Dec-12 12:52:42

What do you think the police could do better in the initial investigation stage - before CPS has sight of the case?

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 13:04:38

Hello Keir,

I am wondering, in what percentage of cases does the CPS give Police advice 'pre-charge', and how does such CPS involvement correlate with NFAs (No Further Actions) on the one hand, and eventual convictions on the other?

Does the level of CPS involvement pre-charge vary from county to county?

Thank you.

LittleTownofBethleHelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 05-Dec-12 13:11:33

Afternoon. Apols for the slight delay: Keir is on his way...

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:12:50

Hi - I'm sorry we are running a little bit late - but here now and very pleased to have been invited back to answer your questions. I enjoyed it last time and I hope we can make up the time.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 13:13:18

That intelligence options sounds very interesting, I would like to hear more about that.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 13:14:47

Think the second bullet point is about stopping the prosecution and imprisonment of women who withdraw allegations or are unable to testify. Hope it is anyway.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 13:16:03

HotHead, hoping that, too. It was a big concern on the last webchat if I recall correctly.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:17:25

LineRunnerWithBellsOn

Hello Keir,

I am wondering, in what percentage of cases does the CPS give Police advice 'pre-charge', and how does such CPS involvement correlate with NFAs (No Further Actions) on the one hand, and eventual convictions on the other?

Does the level of CPS involvement pre-charge vary from county to county?

Thank you.

The CPS gives pre charge advice in quite a number of cases but I do not have the percentage to hand. I encourage this - we find that stronger cases are built where the police come to us early.

I am really happy to report that since the last Mumsnet webchat, our conviction rates have improved still further. For rape and other serious sexual offences the conviction rate is now at 62.5%, which is an all time record high. Good progress but still more to do.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:20:45

snowshapes

Thank you for taking the time to do this webchat. I'm a regular but have name-changed here.

My question: is there any point in reporting a historic rape case? What do you do in such circumstances?

What I have read on the Rape Crisis website and the Scottish government website (though I am guessing that the DPP has only responsibility for England?) talks about what you do when you are raped, but I am dealing with something which happened nearly 13 years ago, which I did not deal with at the time because I had two recent close bereavements and no family support and I just seem to have repressed it, because it was too much to deal with, till it re-surfaced this summer in my mind, to my distress. I?m guessing as there is no evidence, apart from what I am saying, there is no case, even if I wanted to bring one.

To complicate matters, the person who did it is not British, they are not resident in this country any more. So, personally I am not sure what, if anything, one could do here. But if you could answer my general question above, I would really appreciate it.

Yes there is a point in reporting a historic rape case. The starting point is with the police as they are the investigators and when they have established the evidence they will refer it to us if they think a charge could be brought. A lot will depend on how long ago the incident was and what witnesses remember etc but the mere fact that something happened some years ago is not a bar to prosecution.
So-called historic rape cases are not uncommon and in all of our areas we prosecute a good number of them.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:23:42

StewieGriffinsMom

Rape is such a common part of domestic violence, yet British courts presume a child's relationship with a father is more important than an abused women being protected from continuing abuse from their ex-partner.

Do you not see the damage caused to children and women when they are legally obligated to continue a relationship with an abusive man? This is a common reason women don't charge former partners with abuse because they know that they will neither be believed nor protected from long-term violence.

All this does is continue to perpetuate violent relationships raising another generation of children in violence.

Hi StewieGriffinsMom - the CPS is not responsible for family law matters, but I take your point. To my mind one of the most important things is encouraging those that have been subjected to abuse to come forward. I think it's a cause of concern when victims think they will not be believed or protected and it is our responsibility to do something about that. We have to start these cases in the same frame of mind as we would start any other case. We don't presume burglary victims are lying and we shouldn't presume domestic violence victims are lying.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:26:43

vigglewiggle

What do you think the police could do better in the initial investigation stage - before CPS has sight of the case?

Good question. The role of the police is obviously critical in the investigation of rape and domestic violence, and I am convinced there are a number of steps which if taken early make a real difference. For example, photographs and videos of the scene, careful recording of injuries, retention of the 999 call and early statements from witnesses. I'm glad to say that we've now agreed only this month an evidential checklist with the police to try to ensure that these steps and others are routinely taken.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:30:26

SirEdmundFrillary

Last week on Radio 4?s ?Today? programme a solicitor who represents abuse victims spoke about the CPS?s attitude of dismissiveness.

In my experience he?s right. Hearing it was upsetting but a relief. I don?t want to explain my own situation here.

With institutional racism organisations had to dig deep and to me this seems similar.

So my 2nd question is, what do you think of that?

I think, to be fair, the comment may have been about a decision of the then DPP back in 1970 in relation to the Cyril Smith case. I would certainly be extremely concerned to hear of any dismissive attitude by the CPS now. We have worked really hard in the last four years to develop specialists and I personally ask for and study reports from each of our areas every six months in cases relating to Violence Against Women and Girls to assure myself that we are doing things properly and to the best of our abilities. I think, and hope, that is one of the reasons the conviction rate for rape is going up.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:33:07

timeforachangebaby

How can victims who feel Stonewalled in their own cases get better answers? Ie victim has a question, the answer from OIC is - "that's a CPS decision I don't know" but a victim cannot speak to CPS to get answers to their questions and the police not seeing it as their job to question CPS.

Hi there. I understand your concern. In cases involving serious sexual offences I would expect the victim to have a single point of contact (SPOC) who they can ask questions of. This may be either a police officer or a member of the joint police/CPS witness care unit. We do work closely with the police and I would expect them to pass any questions from a victim on to us and I encourage prosecutors to be as open as possible about the decisions they are making.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 13:36:29

We don't presume burglary victims are lying

Good to hear a DPP acknowledging this. It horrifies me how widespread the myth is that women lie about rape and abuse.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:36:30

madeiracake

given that, as I understand it, in the overwhelming majority of rape cases - or perhaps more accurately cases of rape, including those which do not make it to court - the defendant is guilty but there is insufficient evidence to convict, has the introduction of a 'not proven' verdict ever been considered, and if so, why was it turned down?

It would seem more accurately to reflect the unprovability which is a central problem in the relationship between rape and the law and prevent victims from suffering the additional (considerable) psychological trauma of not being believed in court - would you agree?

Thanks for this. We have to be careful here not to make assumptions about victims or about defendants - all those accused of offences are entitled to be presumed innocent until a court finds them guilty. I don't underestimate the difficulties in bringing rape cases to court but it's really important that we hang on to this very important principle. Rather than create a halfway house as it were of not proven, I think we should concentrate our efforts on improving the conviction rate. That means we have to give victims greater confidence to come forward in the belief that they will be believed and treated properly and it means that we have to redouble our efforts to build strong cases with the police. We are heading in the right direction but I do accept we are on a journey here and there is more to do.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 13:36:58

That is good news about the conviction rate, do you think society is changing and starting to believe women targeted by abusers? By the time it gets to courst a lot comes down to myths and preconceptions held by juries, and some judges.

Next big effort is to encourage more women and children to report and to convert more reports into prosecutions. What are the latest statistics on these things please?

SirEdmundFrillary Wed 05-Dec-12 13:37:32

Thanks, however it was clear what he was saying. I also rang the solicitor myself to tell him about my own experiences. It's clear that the attitude persists right now, and that is very worrying.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:39:36

MistressFord

DH is a CPS Prosecutor and prosecutes DV and rape cases. There have been lots of administrative and structural changes at the CPS as well as cuts in the number of prosecutors. He rarely has sufficient time to prepare cases before the trial and does not feel that he can do his job properly and fairly represent the victim. How does the DPP intend to address this to ensure that all victims of crime get a good service from the CPS.

It's true that the CPS has had to make significant savings - over 25%. However, notwithstanding the savings, our performance is in fact improving year-on-year against our key indicators. So far as cases involving violence against women and girls I have personally taken a lead in ensuring that our commitment in this area is not affected by the savings we have had to make. I would expect all of our prosecutors to be given sufficient time to prepare their cases properly and I do hold assurance meetings every six months to make sure I know what's going on in each of our areas.

timeforachangebaby Wed 05-Dec-12 13:42:26

I agree with SirEdmund, that this dismissive attitude exists, however I believe it is linked to understaffing and the issues raised by MistressFord.

Thank you for the answer to my question, I/we do have a SPOC, however the only answer I can get from a question asked 3 weeks ago, is he is busy and waiting for a reply from the CPS, having spoken to other victims, this is common, and as there is no right for a victim to communicate directly with the CPS, it appears to be a circle of non-answers often leading right up to trial.

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 13:42:44

What do you think about a change of terminology from 'victim' to 'target'? Still mulling this one myself.

slug Wed 05-Dec-12 13:43:25

" I do hold assurance meetings every six months to make sure I know what's going on in each of our areas"

Do you wonder, given the statement made anonymously by the partner of a CPS lawyer, why reports of this nature don't get to you? What does this say about
a) the structure of the organisation?
b) your own and your managers styles of management?

HotheadPaisan Wed 05-Dec-12 13:44:18

I wish there was a way to report intelligence for stats purposes at least. Even anonymously via the web or something like that. I know there are key crime reports which do something similar but I'm sure more could be done to help people log their experiences and be listened to.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:45:13

Since there are a few questions on the question of 'false allegations' and perverting the course of justice it might be a good idea if I just clarified our approach.
The guidance I introduced last year was intended to ensure that we don't prosecute cases where individuals may have retracted or withdrawn their allegation because of some sort of pressure - direct or indirect.
It was a recognition that in a number of cases victims retract what are in fact true allegations and I wanted to make sure that we did not prosecute them for those retractions.

timeforachangebaby Wed 05-Dec-12 13:48:11

Can I ask, you have said the conviction rate is rising, how about the much mooted attrition rate of 6%, is the conviction rate improving because less cases are actually being prosecuted and the criteria for prosecution is getting higher, or are indeed more rapists being brought to justice.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:48:27

ChristmasFayrePhyllis

The End Violence Against Women Coalition reports that 1/3 of girls aged 16-18 have experienced sexual assault or sexual bullying in schools.

School is likely the time where young men and boys form lifelong attitudes to violence against women.

What is the CPS doing/what further role can it play in preventing/prosecuting sexual assault in schools?

Thanks, I'm very glad you raised this. In the last few years there is an emerging body of evidence to suggest that far from domestic violence and abuse receding, there is a new generation of younger victims waiting in the wings.
It may well be that those aged between about 15 and 19 are most at risk. I have chaired a scrutiny panel looking at abuse of younger victims in this way and the CPS is considering how we can be more effective in dealing with this.
The first and most important point is to recognise that it's happening rather than thinking and hoping that it isn't. I have raised this at the 10 year anniversary event of the charity Tender, a great event which I attended last week.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 13:49:15

I appreciate that clarification about false allegations.

If I may rephrase my earlier question: does it concern you that the myths/media attention surrounding 'false allegations' seems so much to relate to women (including in what I assume is your own phrasing in the OP)? Is there anything being done to counteract this idea that false allegations are something made specifically by women?

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:50:23

HotheadPaisan

I wish there was a way to report intelligence for stats purposes at least. Even anonymously via the web or something like that. I know there are key crime reports which do something similar but I'm sure more could be done to help people log their experiences and be listened to.

Some of this ground I hope is covered by the British Crime Survey, however, you might want to note that victims can report anonymously via a Sexual Assault Referral Centre. Forensic samples can be taken if the victim so wishes.

quietlysuggests Wed 05-Dec-12 13:52:34

If the majority of PEOPLE, victims and non victims alike think that sentences for rape are not long enough, then is it not time to increase those sentences?

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:53:49

DyeInTheEar

Do you agree that "jokes" like the one in FHM do little to help the attitude towards victims of these types of crime.

here

It's an unfunny joke which doesn't help anyone, but it is really important that the message gets out loud and clear that so-called entrenched attitudes to victims need to be challenged. We've done a lot of work to try and rid the criminal justice system of myths and stereotypes about victims that have been around a very long time.
Women and girls are entitled to dress as they please, socialise as they choose, without assumptions being made about their character. For far too long this has bedevilled the way in which victims of rape have been dealt with.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:55:43

unrulysun

And in relation to the above do you agree that the campaigns which send the message that women should stop getting themselves raped are equally unhelpful?

Absolutely. The idea that victims get themselves raped is repugnant. We need to focus on the offender here, not the victim. Offenders choose to rape, victims do not choose to be raped.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 13:58:41

Offred

I think what is key to reducing levels of rape and sexual assault is improving understanding of the law on consent. It is frequently mis or not understood generally in society and I think that the govt ads aimed at young people, who are the group who experience the highest levels of violence, are a good move but they are not clear enough e.g. They perpetuate the myth that unless she says no it isn't rape in the minds of people who don't understand consent, and they are not adequate.

The cps guidelines on the law on sexual offences are very clear but unfortunately not known about or accepted by a significant number of people I think. Are there any plans to promote the guidelines or educate children about the law on consent?

We try to promote the guidelines as widely as we can, and they are publicly available. In addition to that, I try to ensure that we take every opportunity to speak to audiences including in schools about violence against women and girls. I regularly give speeches or attend seminars in a deliberate attempt to draw attention to the issues.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 14:03:04

HotheadPaisan

That is good news about the conviction rate, do you think society is changing and starting to believe women targeted by abusers? By the time it gets to courst a lot comes down to myths and preconceptions held by juries, and some judges.

Next big effort is to encourage more women and children to report and to convert more reports into prosecutions. What are the latest statistics on these things please?

Our latest statistics show that in the last five years the overall number of convictions in cases involving violence against women and girls rose from 52,000 to almost 67,000. Over the past year, for the first time ever, conviction rates in all three areas of domestic violence, rape and sexual offences rose compared with the previous year. And as mentioned earlier, the conviction rate for rape or other serious sexual or violent offences has risen to 62.5%, the highest rate ever recorded. This is good, but I do not want to be complacent. We have to remember that in very many cases victims do not feel confident in coming forward at all and more cases of rape are not reported than are reported, so there's a lot more work for all of us to do.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 14:05:16

ilovemydogandMrObama

What would you say to a friend of mine who was in court last week as a witness giving evidence against her husband who assaulted her? Although the people from Victim Support were very supportive, and arranged for her to give evidence via video link, my friend had no idea about the legal process.

She was scared, overwhelmed and frightened. She spoke to the CPS prosecutor for about 5 minutes before court which really wasn't enough time.

Seems to me there would be scope for having an amicus type person to represent the victim and their interests, especially in domestic abuse cases as she felt her voice wasn't being heard on the same legal footing as the defendant.

I'm sorry your friend found the experience so frightening. In many areas, there are independent domestic violence advisors and independent sexual violence advisors who can support victims throughout the process, providing practical advice and information as well as emotional support. They do a really good job and we welcome the fact that we work closely with them.

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 14:07:56

slug

" I do hold assurance meetings every six months to make sure I know what's going on in each of our areas"

Do you wonder, given the statement made anonymously by the partner of a CPS lawyer, why reports of this nature don't get to you? What does this say about
a) the structure of the organisation?
b) your own and your managers styles of management?

The assurance reports and meetings are only a small part of the story. We collate a huge amount of data about our performance. Our co-ordinators meet regularly and I've made it my business to visit the frontline staff as often as possible. So, for example, I have now visited nearly all of our offices across England and Wales at least three times meeting many thousands of staff face-to-face. I also carry out unannounced court visits. In the last two years I have been to 31 Crown Court centres across England and Wales where I have sat quietly at the back of the busiest court observing how we deliver our service.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 14:08:51

Keir,

62.5% of what? (See two posts up, thanks.)

WomanlyWoman Wed 05-Dec-12 14:09:29

I have heard horror stories of domestic abusers being denied legal aid and as a result the woman they assaulted having to be examined by them in the courtroom. Would you agree that legal aid is essential for both parties in cases of domestic violence?

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 14:09:37

(3 posts up now.)

slug Wed 05-Dec-12 14:09:38

And yet your staff seem reluctant to tell you about the pressures they are under.

Is it possible they feel unable to tell you about these?

KeirStarmer Wed 05-Dec-12 14:11:39

Time has already run out on us, which is a shame because I can see there are many issues of real importance bubbling up and around this webchat. This is a topic that is of considerable importance to me. I will continue my efforts and the efforts of the CPS in doing all that we can to ensure that where cases can be brought to court they are and that victims and witnesses have the support they need and deserve.
The story so far is of good progress but much more to do. Thanks for sharing some time with me.

timeforachangebaby Wed 05-Dec-12 14:12:23

Thank you for your time.

LRDtheFeministDude Wed 05-Dec-12 14:13:58

Thanks.

snowshapes Wed 05-Dec-12 14:30:40

thank you.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 14:33:21

Bye. Please come back again.

Lougle Wed 05-Dec-12 14:38:13

Perhaps there should be a campaign called 'Sexplicit' - promoting explicit consent before sex.

SirEdmundFrillary Wed 05-Dec-12 15:16:40

Yes, thank you for coming and I too hope you’ll come back.

I thought the answer to my question was quite a neat demonstration of not wanting to hear or believe a victim, actually. There’s the implication that what I’m saying is wrong/mistaken etc. Keir will know what was said in the programme as he has a large press office. That’s why he said: ‘…the comment may have been…’, not, ‘you’re talking crap and that is not what was said.’
His beginning the sentence with ‘to be fair’ is a device intended to link himself in people’s minds with the concept of fairness.
The rest of the answer is just saying stuff I didn’t ask about.

It’s a difficult job and of course a lot of good work is being done but there are problems too and issuing big statements about progress is easy; changing things takes more and needs a willingness to listen uncomfortable things.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to have done this though, so thank you Keir and mumsnet.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 17:14:27

I'm glad he did the webchat and I'm glad he said that the CPS have rowed back on those horrible prosecutions of retracting victims. Good to get it in writing from him.

Still lots of questions that arise!

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 20:44:14

Thanks for coming on here and replying. But instead of saying there is a new generation of younger victims waiting in the wings, maybe you could have said 'there is a new generation of young people who don't seem to properly understand what consent and sexual abuse are, and who are growing up in an environment that promotes rape culture'. Sexual assault victims don't just happen: it is the people who choose to perpetrate assault who make it happen.

vvilmasanto Wed 05-Dec-12 20:56:17

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

mcmooncup Wed 05-Dec-12 21:03:23

I don't understand the 62.5% figure?

I'm presuming he is saying that they get convictions in 62.5% of cases they take to court. But if so, that is a massively misleading figure to be quoting as a "conviction rate". How did others understand that figure?

ChristmasFayrePhyllis Wed 05-Dec-12 21:16:58

Well, it can't possibly be of all reported serious sexual offences. It must be either those that the CPS gets a file on, or those that actually make it to court. He should have made it clear what it meant.

timeforachangebaby Wed 05-Dec-12 22:06:52

I think he means 62.5% of those that actually make it to court.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Wed 05-Dec-12 22:10:20

That's why I asked about the 'pre-charge' advice and if it is, basically, upping or downing the figures (and the CPS's 'targets').

I think - just think, I don't actually know - that the increase to 62.5% is connected to the increase in pre-charge advice, but not necessarily in what we might think to be a good way. I think it is in the public interest for this to be clarified.

For once I would actually like to see raw numbers as well as percentages; from reporting, to the CPS screening at 'pre-charge advice' stage, and then through to charge and conviction.

Keir Starmer didn't answer my [Part 2] question about how the levels of pre-charge advice and the consequent NFAs/conviction data correlate and vary from county to county. I think the answer would be illuminating.

mcmooncup Wed 05-Dec-12 22:12:18

I agree linerunner

That seemed a deliberately vague statistic. He was generally very well informed and must know that 62.5% of nothing specific is a meaningless statistic.

timeforachangebaby Wed 05-Dec-12 22:31:28

I guess there is only so much he can say in an hour, perhaps mumsnethq could ask his press office to get some comprehensive answers to the unanswered questions from before he ran out of time.

OhDearNigel Wed 05-Dec-12 23:19:19

Gutted I missed this webchat, ironically was at a Supporting Victims of Sexual and Domestic Violence conference sad

OhDearNigel Wed 05-Dec-12 23:21:16

In cases involving serious sexual offences I would expect the victim to have a single point of contact (SPOC) who they can ask questions of. This may be either a police officer or a member of the joint police/CPS witness care unit. We do work closely with the police and I would expect them to pass any questions from a victim on to us and I encourage prosecutors to be as open as possible about the decisions they are making.

I can vouch for this as this is the job I do

OhDearNigel Wed 05-Dec-12 23:25:10

Keir, if there is any chance that you may revisit this thread I have an idea for an early intervention for DV cases - instead of a simple caution for first time DV abusers, replace this with a conditional caution with attendance on IDAP as the condition.
The feedback that I have received from my victims where the perpetrators have attended these programmes is that it has significantly improved their behaviour but would have been beneficial much earlier in the process - which could in turn help lessen reoffending rates, resulting in fewer abused women and also freeing up court and CPS time

OhDearNigel Wed 05-Dec-12 23:28:04

I think the 62.5% figure relates to the percentage of charged rape cases that result in a successful prosecution (ie def. either pleads or is found guilty)

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Thu 06-Dec-12 01:26:19

Lougle I like the Sexplicit idea for consent.

Nigel I think that is right for the conviction rate.

I appreciate Keir responding to my question, however he completely misses the point.

Yes, victim support has been fantastic for my friend who gave evidence against her husband on the emotional side, but she was given no help or advice on the legal front as far as procedure or representation. As essentially a witness in the legal process, she had no legal recourse or voice and had to rely on the prosecutor, who quite correctly, treated her as a witness rather than a victim.

I think there should be more scope for victim participation in DV cases much like the guardian ad litem role where vulnerable children are involved.

StewieGriffinsMom Thu 06-Dec-12 10:30:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SirEdmundFrillary Thu 06-Dec-12 11:16:50

>>Keir Starmer didn't answer my [Part 2] question about how the levels of pre-charge advice and the consequent NFAs/conviction data correlate and vary from county to county. I think the answer would be illuminating.<<

I agree, and I expect that's why he didn't give it.

I've found this all very upsetting. This is such are hard issue for people and I find it insulting and infuriating to have to pick through a load of spin and fidgiwidginess to try and get to proper answers.

I'm particularly annoyed at his implication that I'm not able to understand or hear something that was perfectly clear. If that doesn't demonstrate a dismissive attitude I don't know what would.

LineRunnerWithBellsOn Thu 06-Dec-12 17:44:03

Yes it sounds like cherry-picking cases to me to get the conviction rates higher, with the CPS advising the Police to NFA far too many cases.

SirEdmundFrillary Mon 14-Jan-13 19:09:42

Is there anything new about this? I can'tfind any other threads.

Last week the CPS said in 2009 they and the police could hsve prosecuted.

mungotracy Wed 13-Mar-13 16:02:30

Would the director care to explain why the simple step of providing anonymity to the accused until after trial given the life damaging nature of any allegation has not been taken and that anonymity is granted to the accuser. Is the director happy with lynch mob punishment or simply terrified of actually applying the concept of justice to all because it disturbs his political affiliation?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Tue 19-Mar-13 14:15:43

Because the rape victim is not an accuser, she/he is a witness.

There are provisions for vulnerable witnesses eg children throughout the court system and it has been decided that rape victims are sufficiently vulnerable as a "class" of witnesses (similar to children) to have anonymity.

No crime has general anonymity for the accused, as far as I'm aware. Exceptions are when identifying the accused could identify a vulnerable witness, or (I think) sometimes where the accused might be tried subsequently on another charge to avoid prejudicing the subsequent trial.

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