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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.


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.


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?

ilovemydogandMrObama Tue 04-Dec-12 22:06:26

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.

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