UK & World News
Sex Abuse Panel Formed In Wake Of Savile Case
Police and prosecutors are to set up a special panel to review historic sex abuse allegations in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
The measure is part of a radical overhaul designed to reform the way in which child sexual abuse in particular is handled within the Criminal Justice System.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC told Sky News that there needed to be a "national consensus" over the proper approach the authorities should adopt in the investigation and prosecution of sex offences.
In a speech later to charities, campaigners and government officials, the DPP will set out proposals aimed at rebalancing the way in which alleged victims of abuse are dealt with.
Mr Starmer said: "Police and prosecutors have significantly improved the way we 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."
The Jimmy Savile abuse scandal has been a shocking illustration of the level of isolation many victims feel.
Few victims came forward at the time and those who did said their claims were dismissed by the authorities.
The measures being announced, which are a response to the Savile affair and other scandals - like the grooming and abuse of young girls by a gang of men in Rochdale - are aimed at helping to reassure victims their claims will be taken seriously.
Mr Starmer said: "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."
Jon Bird, who has devoted his life to helping those affected by child sex abuse, helps run the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac).
The charity, based in London, deals with around 7,000 potential abuse victims each year.
He knows more than most how those victims feel. Mr Bird was raped by a stranger when he was just four. He said he was not believed at the time and the issue was brushed under the carpet.
A few years later, he was abused by an adult while at boarding school.
He did not report the abuse at the time because he did not think people would believe him: "I didn't talk about it until I was into my thirties and that is because I hadn't been taken seriously the very first time I tried. So when it happened again I just thought what's the point in trying? And that's pretty typical from what we hear on our support line."
The measures, announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Association of Chief Police Officers, will include what has been described as "a radical clearing of the decks".
All existing policy on child sexual abuse will be decommissioned and replaced by one overarching and agreed approach, which will be followed by investigators and prosecutors across England and Wales.
Enhanced training will also be given to ensure there is no gap between policy and practice.
A national scoping panel will be established to review complaints made in the past, which were not sent for prosecution. If asked to review a case, the panel will aim to determine whether a prosecution can still be brought.
Chief Constable David Whatton, the Association of Chief Police Officers' lead on violence and public protection said: "The police service is acutely aware that trust and being believed are key to victims of sexual offences having the confidence to report such crimes.
"When victims do come forward it is important to ensure that we provide the best response and that includes supporting victims while at the same time ensuring that we do not compromise a fair trial process for the accused.
"Key to that is working closely with other parts of the criminal justice system to ensure we can secure best evidence and best criminal justice outcomes."
The NSPCC and other child protection groups have welcomed the proposals and have said they will work with the police and prosecutors to help draft the new policy.
Although many within child protection and victims support are enthusiastic abut the changes, for the authorities this is still a tricky area, as the rights of those accused of what can be very damaging allegations must also be protected.
However, Mr Starmer said he now believed the Criminal Justice System was heading in the right direction.
He said: "We cannot afford another Savile moment in five or ten 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."
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what do you think?
Why don't we just ban everybody from dealing with children, including teachers and parents?
Well at least somethimg positive has come out from the savile cases.hopefully people will be more willing to come forward and testify against their abuser.though i got to say i dont believe the accused should be named until found guilty and there should be higher punishments given to those that are proved to be lying.also i dont like this american atitude we are adopting regarding compensation.it seems to me victims go to the press and media before approaching the authoritys where as it should be vice versa.
We want you elite pedophiles in jail not on a panal
'The rights of the accused must be protected'......... What a bl**dy joke. Naming alleged perpetrators of sexual crimes is virtually a life sentence wether they are proven guilty or innocent. People accused of such crimes MUST be given anonymity untill found guilty if there is to be fair and even handed justice. Despite what the feministas brigade say such accusations are terribly damaging to the accused and their wives and children and can lead to suicide amongst innocent people and that is a serious INJUSTICE!