New guidelines for prosecutions of child abuse cases to protect vulnerable witnesses were welcomed by the judiciary today – nearly a quarter of a century after they were first proposed.
The lord chief justice, Lord Judge, said that he was delighted at the lord chancellor’s announcement of a pilot scheme under which children and other vulnerable witnesses would be cross-examined in advance of a case coming to trial.
‘This was first suggested by the committee chaired by Judge Pigot QC in 1989 and the judiciary has long supported its implementation,’ he said.
Judge (pictured) also welcomed interim guidelines for prosecutors on how to tackle cases involving child sexual abuse published by the Crown Prosecution Service today.
The guidelines set out what is to be expected of police and prosecutors with responsibility for such cases from the start and require:
- Child sexual abuse cases to be dealt with only by specialist teams of prosecutors;
- Arrangements for early consultation and joint work between police and prosecutors to agree a case strategy and ‘address evidential issues head on’;
- Every case to be considered on its facts and merits when deciding to prosecute, with ‘myths, stereotypes and prejudices’ ignored;
- Police and prosecutors to ensure that appropriate support is available for victims including, where appropriate, counselling;
- Prosecutors to challenge myths and stereotypes in court and to ensure that cases are progressed as swiftly as possible and trial delay minimised.
Keir Starmer, director of public prosecutions, said: ‘Vulnerability can no longer be a barrier to justice and I want to see prosecutors actively challenging any misconceptions a jury might have. The CPS has talented and experienced professionals who are ready and able to take on these extremely challenging cases.’