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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.

SirEdmundFrillary Tue 04-Dec-12 14:33:28

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?

KeirStarmer Wed 30-May-12 11:35:17

edam I'm sorry you missed the session. I hope I have said quite a lot about the issue you raise both when I first answered questions and in these subsequent replies.


Damn, I missed this and he managed to avoid saying anything at all about the horrifying cases where women are prosecuted for daring to report rape.

KeirStarmer Wed 30-May-12 11:34:23

LineRunner I certainly encourage all women and girls to report rapes and sexual assaults and both I and the CPS are committed to supporting victims and witnesses of rape and sexual assault.

My only reticence in saying how I would advise someone who had been raped or sexually assaulted was not so much concern with whether or not they should report the matter, which I think they should, but how they might react and how they might be supported. I am only reticent because I know it is very easy in the abstract to say how one would react to a very serious and sensitive issue when, in reality, until one is in that position one never really knows how you would react.


I think it would be helpful for the DPP to get into a bit more detail about encouraging all women and girls to report rapes and sexual assaults, especially given (as he has said on this thread) (and to paraphrase)

(a) his own [understandable] reluctance to say how he would advise someone close to him in the same circumstances, (b) his own leadership in respect of action and policy; and (c) and his own department's policy on prosectuing alleged falsehoods.

KeirStarmer Tue 29-May-12 10:57:04

LapsusLinguae Sorry I missed your question. 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.

I can certainly reassure you that failure to find corroborating evidence is never treated as amounting to a false allegation of rape. I also accept that there are many factors that may affect individuals who change or withdraw their rape allegation and our revised policy makes it absolutely clear that we will not prosecute unless we can prove that the original allegation was false and even in those circumstances we will go on to consider if it is in the public interest to prosecute.


Keir seemed to miss hmm my post of Tue 13-Mar-12 08:56:19 - so I will repeat as it is relevant to the new posts added here:

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?

KeirStarmer Tue 29-May-12 10:55:14

Nyac Sorry if this question was missed, it was not intentional – the questions were coming thick and fast. I am concerned that rape victims should have confidence in coming forward and I do recognise that if they fear prosecution should they change or retract their evidence that can clearly affect that confidence. That is why, a year ago, I amended our policy on prosecuting those who it is judged have made false allegations of rape.


I asked this question upthread and he ignored it:

"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."

KeirStarmer Tue 29-May-12 10:53:54

BasilFoulTea The percentage of reported cases that are prosecuted when compared to the number of reports is quite low. There are a number of reasons for this but it is obviously a cause for concern. I should make it clear that not all reported rapes are by any means submitted to the CPS for consideration and the percentage of cases percentage of cases passed to the CPS that are prosecuted are much higher. I have asked my team to provide some of the statistics we have available on this. As for the question of false allegations of rape as you know we changed our policy a year ago in relation to false allegations of rape and we intend to collate the figures over those 12 months. At that stage I hope I will be able to give you an accurate answer to your question probably later this year.

For statistics from our 2010-11 Violence Against Women and Girls report see below:

The official national rape statistics from the Ministry of Justice indicate that in the calendar year of 2010 there were 3,071 defendants, on a principal offence basis, prosecuted for rape at the magistrates courts, with 3,013 committed to the Crown Court for trial. In 2010 there were 1,058 offenders convicted of rape, resulting in a prosecution to conviction ratio in 2010 of 34 per cent;

MoJ data from 2008 indicated that of the rape cases heard at Crown Court in 2008 and matched to an outcome in 2008 or 2009 (i.e. completed trials):

58% were convicted of an offence (42% were not guilty);

Of which 33% were convicted of rape;

A further 14% were convicted of another sexual offence;

5% were convicted of a violent offence, a further 5% of another indictable offence and 1% of a summary offence.

Since 2007-08, CPS performance management data has illustrated an increase of 20% in the volume of prosecutions and 22% in the volume of defendants convicted;

In 2010-11 there was a slight fall in the proportion of defendants convicted after charge against a ten per cent increase in the volume of defendants prosecuted and a nine per cent increase in volume of those convicted;

KeirStarmer Tue 29-May-12 10:51:35

LineRunner Sorry if I missed your first question – not intentional. I hope I have now answered it but on the specific issue of defence counsel questioning victims about issues beyond the incident in question, the law has infact got tighter here and the courts are more controlling of the questions. I can't comment on whether the balance is right in any specific case but i do think most people appreciate the point you are making.


I can't find an answer to my first question, which is the one that mattered to me the more; and which relates very much to Vickiw1's important question.

Why do rape defence counsels go after alleged rape victims about whether they told a lie, even about an unrelated matter? Why is this allowed to take place?

Rape is not prosecuted and defended like other crimes as long as this happens, and is allowed to happen.

It's a massive rape myth - catch the victim out on one lie, and she's a habitual liar....

KeirStarmer Tue 29-May-12 10:47:36

Vickiw1 we have to be careful here. All defendants must be treated as innocent until proven guilty – that is a fundamental principle. However, i completely accept your point that victims should not be treated as guilty until proven innocent. That is why it is so important that we tackle the myths and stereotypes surrounding sexual offences – which is what this campaign highlighting. I, for one, accept that whilst we have made progress, there is more that we all need to do.


I was raped twice as a child and what I would ask is what CPS is doing to end the situation whereby a defendant in a rape case is treated as innocent until proven guilty, whereas the victim is treated as guilty (of lying) until proven innocent. Society - media, men, police and judiciary - starts from two very different stand points depending on the gender of the perpetrator/victim which allows the perpatrator of the crime to go free more often than not. Simply saying it comes down to his word against hers is not good enough - we do not treat burglary, mugging or any other crime as a case of the victim has to prove she is not lying first and foremost. I believe that rape and sexist violence as a whole (DV) is treated in a radically different manner than any other crime by a male dominated system trying to cover up the extent of male on female crime.

KeirStarmer Tue 29-May-12 10:46:10

thebestisyettocome Can I answer this in two parts. First, I am already working with others to improve standards pf advicacy in court using a quality asurance scheme. Second, as you will appreciate, it is not really appropriate for me as prosecutor to seek to dictate to defence council how they conduct their case. That is really a matter for the court.


Thank you Kier.

I also wonder if it is worth the DPP pressing the Bar Council to see if there could be a standard imposed for defence Counsel who wish to be involved in rape cases. Everything is being more and more regulated so why not say you can only act for the defendant in a trial if you have attained a certain level of excellence/training. This would weed out the crappy Counsel who think the way to cross-examine is make the complainant cry. Perhaps say that only those who have are level 4 prosecutors can act (for the defendant) in such serious cases. Just a thought...

FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 29-May-12 10:37:09

Hello, Keir Starmer's office have come back to me with some answers and they'll be posted up shortly.

Thank you


NormaStanleyFletcher Wed 21-Mar-12 11:08:15

Thank you smile

FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 21-Mar-12 10:54:15

Hello, Keir Starmer's office have asked me to let you know that he will respond to your questions, but probably not until mid next week at the earliest.
Thank you

SweetTheSting Tue 20-Mar-12 14:27:11

Thank you Frances.

FrancesMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 20-Mar-12 10:22:37

Hello All, we've sent your additional questions through to Keir Starmer, he will take a a bit of time to answer them all but he will come back to us

Thank you

SardineQueen Mon 19-Mar-12 11:40:02

Response from MNHQ

Hello SardineQueen
Thanks for getting in touch and apologies for the delay in getting back to you. We are hoping that Keir Starmer will be able to respond to any additional questions - but this may not be immediate.
All best

So we all need to remember to keep our eyes peeled!!!

SardineQueen Sat 17-Mar-12 15:04:55


Thank you for the webchat with Kier Starmer. There have been quite a few posts added with questions at the end, and some cases raised. We were wondering if Kier is aware that the thread has continued, whether you could let him know? Whether there is any possibility he would be able to respond to any of the additional points raised.

Thanks, Me

LineRunner Sat 17-Mar-12 15:02:25

SardineQueen, that would be grand, if you would do that. Thank you.

edam Sat 17-Mar-12 14:56:44

Yes please SQ.

SardineQueen Sat 17-Mar-12 14:52:01

Has anyone reported and asked MNHQ? Shall I do it?

LineRunner Fri 16-Mar-12 20:59:30

I agree with SardineQueen and BailFoulTea.

This where it all coalesces.

This is the real deal.

BasilFoulTea Fri 16-Mar-12 12:29:23

Yes I think that would be a good idea SQ, those further questions are quite important and challenge the discrepancy between the stated aim of getting women to report rape, versus the reality that no-one in her right mind, is going to risk being sent to prison because she can't get a guilty verdict

SardineQueen Fri 16-Mar-12 09:53:36

Should we report the thread and ask MNHQ to let Kier know there are additional posts and questions?

BasilFoulTea Fri 16-Mar-12 06:34:14

Is he going to send answers to these remaining questions mumsnet, or is that it from the CPS?

edam Thu 15-Mar-12 22:45:51

Damn, I missed this and he managed to avoid saying anything at all about the horrifying cases where women are prosecuted for daring to report rape.

MerlinScot Thu 15-Mar-12 21:24:53

I wouldn't report it either (again).
I'd like to see the face of the PF if my rapist rapes someone else. Maybe he's going to discourage all my ex's victims to report trying to get them prosecuted.

Basil, I think you're right, our rape laws are used to incriminate the victims ;(

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