Changes to Guidance in Cases Involving Child Sexual Abuse
Final guidance on the prosecution of cases involving child sexual abuse in England and Wales has been published.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer has published final guidance on the protection of cases involving child sexual abuse in England and Wales and says it represented a generational shift in attitude across the criminal justice system.
Prosecutors are told to focus on the credibility of child sexual abuse allegations rather than whether the victim makes a good witness and all suspects will be investigated to determine whether they possess indecent images of children.
The Examination of Digital Devices of all Suspects of Child Sex Abuse for Indecent Images of Children
All suspects of child sexual abuse will also be investigated to see if they possess indecent images and the guidelines also include how victims should be treated and how a case should be built and presented.
Whereas victims of child sexual abuse were previously been disbelieved, the new guidelines moved toward a more sophisticated psychology.
An understanding of behaviour previously thought to impact the credibility of a young victim of child sexual abuse has also been included so that such preconceptions can be challenged by Prosecutors including whether they were drunk or were wearing revealing clothes.
A joint protocol for sharing information within child sexual abuse cases has also been published and comes into force from 1st January 2014 with the guidelines requiring Police and Prosecutors to share information with social services, school and family courts.
The Reason for the Changes in Child Sex Abuse Case Guidelines
These changes were identified after complaints were made that too many child sexual abuse cases had been dropped prior to trial due to fears that allegations would not stand up to scrutiny. One of the most serious of these was where 10 men were convicted within a case that was initially not progressed due to doubts of the credibility of the victims.
Mr Starmer said that child sexual abuse cases have been plagued by myths about how real victims behave that do not withstand scrutiny and that the days of the model victim are over, with cases now being investigated and prosecuted whatever the vulnerabilities of the victim.
Indecent Images of Children
Keir Starmer also said that as the guidelines were the result of discussions with various groups within the Criminal Justice System that they would last the test of time and that as the possession of indecent images of children were a common feature that Police would now investigate it in every sexual abuse case.
The guidelines also cover the potential manipulation of others including threats to publish indecent images of children or implicate victims in other offences.
The guidelines also increase awareness as to how some child sexual abuse victims in some ethnic communities can be controlled by offenders.
The NSPCC stated that the changes will make a positive difference for child sexual abuse Prosecutions which have previously experienced difficulties.
Sue Bereolowitz said that the CPS had worked hard to improve the experiences of child witnesses and increase the chances of securing a conviction in child sexual abuse cases through ensuring that those within the trial process are better informed of the impact on the victims and their experiences.
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