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Sexual abuse cases against children to be overhauled to make it more cohesive and informed

Date: (6 March 2013)    |    

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After the Jimmy Savile scandal laws governing sexual offences against children would be changed for good in England and Wales.
Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer is to say in a speech later today that the accounts of alleged victims have been treated too cautiously.
New guidelines for the police and prosecution would be drawn up and a panel would review cases where alleged perpetrators were not charged.
Savile case was to be taken as a defining point for the criminal justice system Mr Starmer told BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw.
The late DJ and TV presenter Savile was found to have carried out more than 200 sexual offences over a 54 year period. Though there were several allegations against the presenter, police failed to taken any action while he was alive.
Mr Starmer says that police and prosecuting lawyers have sometimes adopted an over-cautious approach in cases of sexual assault involving children so as to guard against false allegations.
But the credibility of someone alleging foul was being subjected to standards where vulnerable victims were not believed and were not given any protection by the criminal law Mr Starmer is to say in his speech.
Such disbelief puts the complainants into a vulnerable position as their credibility is doubted because of their inability to trust authority or report intimate details.
But overhauling of the way the police and prosecution should treat such cases would require investigators to test the credibility of an allegation by focusing on the subject as well as the alleged victim and whether there are other cases linked to it.
The new College of Policing, with the agreement of the Crown Prosecution Service and Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) will develop a new policy to replace the 19 sets of guidelines for investigating child sexual abuse that currently exist.
Mr Starmer will say the new policy must be informed, rational and able to withstand the test of time and that another Savile could not be repeated.
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said a number of wrongful convictions following investigations into historic child abuse about 10 years ago saw the justice pendulum swing toward a more sceptical approach by police and prosecutors.
But he said after the Savile affair there was a sense that "the pendulum needed to be adjusted.