Former chief prosecutor Keir Starmer has said that the current justice system is ‘not fit for victims’ and added that many victims do not have the confidence to come forward because they do not think the justice system can help them.
In particular, Mr Starmer is now set to advise Labour on the best way to protect rape victims and abused children from harrowing questioning during court cases and has described it as a ‘golden opportunity’ to change the law. The Labour party have meanwhile called the current code of conduct followed by barristers ‘toothless’.
The review follows several complaints about the questioning of victims of crime and there have been a number of high profile cases where vulnerable witnesses have faced the harrowing ordeal of having to relive their experiences under intense cross-examination in court.
One such witness, Frances Andrade, killed herself after giving evidence against former teacher Michael Brewer, who was later found guilty of indecently assaulting his pupil. During the trial she was called a ‘liar’ and a ‘fantasist’ under cross-examination.
Concerns were also raised after a number of child victims faced questioning in relation to members of a paedophile ring in Oxfordshire. This has led to calls for pre-recorded cross-examinations and barristers to undergo compulsory training.
Mr Starmer has also advised that he will look at making it a legal obligation for the police and prosecutors to keep crime victims informed about the progress of investigations.
He said “The more vulnerable you are as a victim or witness, the less able our criminal justice system is to protect you. Most victims, particularly vulnerable victims, don’t have the confidence to come forward. Most of them have a pretty awful journey through the court process and nearly all of them, at the end of it, say they will never do it again.”
It is hoped that the proposals, if implemented, will give the public greater confidence in the criminal justice system.
As a solicitor specialising in helping people claim compensation for abuse, a lack of public confidence in the criminal justice system is something we see regularly. Our abuse team deal with an extensive amount of claims of this nature and are experienced in helping victims cope with what is ultimately a troubled time. If you would like to speak to someone for further advice then get in touch with one of the team today for a confidential chat.
By Jonathan Bridge, Abuse Claim Lawyer