'Victims of Sexual Abuse Are Often Not Getting the Justice They Deserve' ONE of Britain's Top Lawyers Was in Cardiff Yesterday, Arguing for Greater Protection for Rape and Abuse Victims in the Wake of the Jimmy Savile Scandal. Keir Starmer Told Martin Shipton Why Change Is Needed

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Shipton

URGENT changes to the law are required to provide greater protection to victims of rape and domestic violence, according to the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service.

Sir Keir Starmer QC, who stepped down as the Director of Public Prosecutions last October, told an audience in Cardiff that the Jimmy Savile scandal had demonstrated how many victims had been reluctant to come forward for decades because they had no faith in the criminal justice system.

Speaking at a fundraising event for the Bevan Foundation think tank at the city's Potted Pig restaurant, he said: "Victims of rape and child sexual abuse are often not getting the justice they deserve, and I believe that is because the criminal justice system is currently weighted against them.

"There is an understandable need to protect individuals from false accusations, but I think there is a need to contextualise such concern.

"When I was in charge of the CPS, we undertook a statistical exercise to compare the number of rape and domestic abuse allegations with the number of prosecutions for making false accusations. Over a 17-month period there were 5,551 prosecutions for rape and 35 for making false allegations of rape. There were also 111,000 prosecutions for domestic violence and only six for making false allegations of domestic violence.

"The Jimmy Savile scandal also provided evidence of how reluctant people are to come forward with allegations of abuse when they have no confidence they will be taken seriously. Between October 2012 and January 2013 600 people made a report to the Operation Yewtree team that they had been abused, 450 of whom by Jimmy Savile himself. Of those, the police considered that in 224 cases there were recordable criminal offences. Yet in his lifetime only four allegations were made against him. Overwhelmingly, people said they had not reported what happened at the time because they didn't think they would be believed."

Sir Keir said it was often claimed that England and Wales had the finest criminal justice system in the world: "But that can't possibly be the case if so many people are reluctant to make legitimate complaints because they are afraid they won't be believed," he said.

The former DPP argued that within the system there was an assumption that people would come forward quickly if they had been sexually assaulted. Yet there was documented research that many people were reluctant to talk about their worst sexual experience. …