New guidelines have been published in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal which have been described by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, as the biggest shift in attitude across the criminal justice system for a generation.
All those suspected of child sex abuse will be investigated to determine whether they possess indecent images and all prosecutors will be told to focus on the allegations themselves rather than on whether the victim is likely to make a good witness.
Following a public consultation the new guidelines will come into force on 1 January 2014 and have been brought in due to concerns that too many cases are collapsing because of fears that the allegations would not be able to stand up to scrutiny. Recent cases, aside from the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile during his lifetime, include one involving 10 defendants initially not proceeded with because of fears over the credibility of the victims as witnesses.
The intention is that from January next year the vulnerabilities of the victim will be given less importance while the possession of indecent images, believed to be a common feature in child sex abuse cases, will be investigated in all suspected cases.
The guidelines will also look at the way some victims of abuse have been subjected to threats to keep them quiet and will also concentrate on some victims in ethnic communities and how they can be controlled by attackers who use “honour” and “shame” as ways of keeping the incident from the public gaze.