UK

Sir Keir Starmer: Legal system 'not fit for purpose'

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Media captionSir Keir Starmer said the legal system was failing victims

The justice system in England and Wales "is not fit for purpose for victims", the former chief prosecutor has said.

Sir Keir Starmer said: "The more vulnerable you are as a victim, the less able the criminal justice system is to protect you."

Lack of faith in the system meant many victims of domestic and sexual violence "simply don't come forward", he told the BBC's Hardtalk programme.

He also warned that the system could not take further cuts to its funding.

Sir Keir said progress had been made to help victims during his five years as director of public prosecutions (DPP), and he highlighted his efforts to "change the approach" prosecutors and police took to cases of child sexual abuse.

He also said action taken since the Jimmy Savile scandal would ensure victims were not "let down" in the way that they were at the time of Savile's many sex offences.

Explaining his view on the way the legal system treats victims, Sir Keir said it was created as a "straight fight" between the prosecution and the defence, and the rights of victims only started being considered about 20 years ago.

'No further cuts'

On the subject of cuts, he said the Crown Prosecution Service's budget had been reduced by 27.5% during his time as DPP, with another 5.5% cut to come in 2015-16.

"There will come a point where really no further cuts can be sustained and I think we're very, very close to that point," he said.

Sir Keir said the only way to make further cuts would be to change the "way we run the system", for example by reducing the number of cases sent to courts.

He said there were lots of minor cases going to magistrates' courts which "simply don't need to be there" - such as cases where people plead guilty by post to minor offences and the court convenes even though the person being sentenced is not required to attend.

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