Planned Changes to the Handling of Child Sex Offence Cases

Planned Changes to the Handling of Child Sex Offence Cases

Radical changes are in store for the way sexual offence cases involving children are to be handled in future, following the Jimmy Savile scandal.
The Crown Prosecution Service is also planning to reopen hundreds of previously closed cases where the alleged offender previously sustained no charges. This announcement follows a series of high profile cases involving sexual offences against children, including the Jimmy Savile affair and the exposed paedophile ring in Rochdale.

Planned Changes

Police and prosecutors who deal with offences of a sexual nature will receive further training of how to handle such cases to ensure there are no gaps. Amongst this, new guidelines are to be drafted on investigating and prosecuting sexual offence cases. The whole shake-up aims to prevent prolific offenders such as Jimmy Savile from slipping through the net in future.
The decision of whether or not to reopen cases will come from a panel, made up of police and prosecutors, who will review closed cases and pass those they deem to need further investigation on to Chief Constables.

Credibility Testing

One of the major aspects of the current process of investigation to change will be that the credibility testing will focus more on the accused and less on the victim. According to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Kier Starmer, the current guidelines are failing to protect some of the most vulnerable victims from sexual offence predators.
The current credibility testing means that some victims are not passing the credibility test due to personal problems, such as alcohol dependency, which is potentially allowing some perpetrators to forgo prosecution. The new guidance will ensure that the investigation will rely less heavily on the credibility of the victim and more on the offender as well

A Cause for Concern?

A solicitor on the panel reviewing historical child abuse cases voiced his concerns that the new guidance could weight too heavily in the victims’ favour and that precautions must be taken to ensure trials and investigations and conducted fairly.
The new draft guidelines are expected to be released in May this year.
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