UK

Four sex-abuse cases referred to police for reconsideration

Scales of justice
Image caption Few details have been released about the cases which are to be reconsidered

Police have been asked to reconsider their decision to drop four sex-abuse cases, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced.

A panel of police chiefs and prosecutors, set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, has decided allegations against three individuals might need to be re-investigated.

Two of the four alleged victims accused the same individual of abuse.

Some of the cases are understood to relate to religious institutions.

But chief constable Dave Whatton, from the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said the cases did not involve gangs or celebrities.

The panel comprises a chief crown prosecutor (a senior CPS lawyer), a member of Acpo, a specialist prosecutor and a child-abuse investigator, and an independent representative from either the NSPCC or the Office of the Children's Commissioner.

The police forces may now decide whether to re-investigate the cases, or ask the panel to decide on their behalf whether they should re-investigate them.

'Watershed moment'

Director of public prosecutions for England and Wales Keir Starmer said he expected the number of cases referred to the panel to increase.

He said: "The purpose is to look at any case where an individual says, 'I came forward in the past and either the police or the prosecution took the decision not to take my case forward,' and ask the panel to look at it.

"We don't want the panel to become overly bureaucratic and we don't want it to sit if it's unnecessary.

"In many places around the country chief constables are saying, 'We will look at cases again in any event.' If you are hearing that, you don't need to go to the panel and it's really much more straightforward for the victim."

Police and prosecutors have also unveiled new guidelines on how to handle cases involving child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The changes will mean only specialist teams of prosecutors will be involved in such cases, and victims will be offered counselling "where appropriate".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's the World at One programme, Mr Starmer said the guidelines were the consequence of a review into the CPS's handling of the Jimmy Savile case, which he described as a "watershed moment".

"We had to change the way that we approach these cases, and that's what we've done today," he said.

"I think there's a collective appreciation that a number of assumptions were being made about victims which simply did not withstand scrutiny... for example, that they would report early if they were abused, that they would be able to give coherent and consistent accounts to the police, that they wouldn't be involved in other wrong-doing, and they wouldn't be involved in drink or drugs."

This was "asking too much of victims" and had created a barrier to justice in many cases, he said.

A separate pilot scheme, introduced by the Ministry of Justice for England and Wales, will mean that child victims of crime and vulnerable adults will be questioned on video before trials begin to minimise the extent to which they need to appear in court.

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