Child abuse probes may be reopened
Published 06/03/2013 | 02:46
Hundreds of investigations into alleged child abuse that were dropped by police or prosecutors could be reviewed under recently outlined plans.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer announced details of a shake-up in the way the criminal justice system deals with alleged sex abuse to head off "another Savile moment". Plans include a panel to review cases where investigations into alleged abuse have not been pursued.
Mr Starmer said: "What we are proposing is a scoping panel to look at cases where people have previously come forward but their case has not been proceeded with. The panel will advise chief constables on whether the case should be reopened.
"This is really to put some formality around the process by which either the police or victims could bring a case to the panel and say, 'do you think this one deserves a second look?'. I think it's more likely to be hundreds than thousands (of cases) but we'll have to feel our way through it."
Earlier this year the Crown Prosecution Service said a chance was missed to charge disgraced TV presenter Jimmy Savile with sex crimes while he was alive. Allegations were made to Surrey and Sussex Police but the cases were not pursued because victims were not taken seriously enough, the CPS said.
On Wednesday, Mr Starmer and Chief Constable David Whatton, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), set out plans for an overhaul of guidance, a programme of training, and proposals for the panel of officers and prosecutors to look at past decisions if requested.
Mr Starmer said: "We cannot afford another Savile moment in five or 10 years' time. Whatever approach is now agreed it has to be fully informed, coherent, consistently applied across the country and able to withstand the test of time."
In a London speech, the DPP will set out the results of discussions with leading police officers, including Mr Whatton.
Alan Wardle from the NSPCC said the plans were "a big step in the right direction", but that changes must be made to encourage young victims to come forward. He said: "Too often in the past the victim's account has been questioned from the start. We therefore support the decision to re-examine how prosecutions are pursued in cases of child sexual abuse."
The CPS and Acpo have agreed that a new overarching approach to investigation and prosecution of sexual offences will be drawn up, and will be applicable to all police forces and agreed by the CPS. New guidance to ensure consistent best practice will be drafted by the CPS, which will be open to public consultation.