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DPP announces measures to transform police and CPS response to child sexual abuse

Keir Starmer calls for a national consensus on investigation and prosecution

In a speech to charities, campaigners and Government officials, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, has announced a package of measures to transform the way the criminal justice system tackles child sexual abuse.

Mr Starmer said that police and prosecutors have significantly improved the way in which they investigate and prosecute sexual offences in recent years, particularly those involving children. The results have been encouraging with more cases being brought to court, higher conviction rates and more defendants pleading guilty. Yet, despite all this, events over the last 12 months raise fundamental questions about our approach to these cases.

Mr Starmer added:

"We are clear that the yardsticks for testing the credibility and reliability of victims in sexual abuse cases do not serve the police or prosecutors well and risk leaving an identifiable group of vulnerable victims unprotected by the criminal law."

The DPP has agreed with ACPO the following measures:

  1. A radical clearing of the decks in relation to policy and guidance. All existing policy will be decommissioned, with one overarching and agreed approach to investigation and prosecution of sexual offences to be applicable in all police forces and agreed by the CPS. This will be supported by the College of Policing. The CPS will also draft new guidance to ensure consistent best practice, which will be open to public consultation. 
  2. Training will ensure there is no gap between policy and practice. The training will be hands on and provide practical advice to police and prosecutors about when a complainant can and should be told about other complaints, among other things. 
  3. There will be a national scoping panel, which will review complaints made in the past which were not pursued by police and prosecutors, if requested. The precise working of the panel is subject to approval by Chief Constables later this week.

Mr Starmer said:

"There is an urgent need for an informed national debate about the proper approach to the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences. That debate needs to extend well beyond the CPS and the police. Above all, a national consensus needs to be reached on the issues."

The speech can be read here.