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Friday, 21 February 2014

Prosecuter hits out at 'myth' of financial gain in sexual abuse cases

Written by The Editorial Team

The country's top prosecutor has hit out at "new myths" suggesting sex abuse victims are financially motivated.

Writing for The Times newspaper, Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, has defended prosecutions that followed the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Her comments come after Dave Lee Travis, the DJ, and William Roache, the Coronation Street actor, were cleared of historical sex abuse.

Mrs Saunders, who took over as DPP in October, said she intends to pursue such cases, adding the public would be "horrified" if complaints about historical abuse were not tackled.

"It used to be that if a rape victim wore a short skirt, her credibility was undermined," she wrote. "Thankfully, we have moved on."

She went on: "Now we must be careful not to establish new myths that victims come forward only for financial or other motives.

"I believe that most complainants have heard that they will finally be treated with the respect they deserve."

She added: " To those who say recent high-profile acquittals show that police and prosecutors are overcompensating for past failings, I say quite simply that we are not.

"If we took to court only cases where, on the papers, we were certain of a conviction, we would rightly be accused of being over-cautious.

"Justice can only be done if prosecutors remain independent and fair, regardless of who a defendant might be."

Mrs Saunders said victims can remain silent for years because they "often feel shame" and can feel "the system is against them".

"Even with the approach now being taken by the police and CPS, including much better support, the trial process is difficult and can be deeply invasive and personal," she added.

Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of independent charity Victim Support, said: "Too many victims of sexual abuse and violence continue to suffer in silence - it takes real courage to come forward. Victims are afraid of being disbelieved, of being judged and of being failed by our criminal justice system.

"If victims do not come forward then justice cannot be done, and crucially, they cannot receive the specialist help they need to rebuild their lives.

"We must respect the verdicts reached by a jury in any particular case, but this should never be taken as a verdict on people who come forward, perhaps after many years, to report suffering sexual abuse and violence.

"It would be a tragedy if victims were deterred from seeking justice and help by a single case, verdict or incident, however high-profile."

Liz Dux, head of abuse at law firm Slater & Gordon, which represents more than 70 Savile victims, said: "To suggest that victims speak out about their horrific ordeals for monetary gain is little short of insulting.

"Our clients didn't feel like they could be heard when these crimes took place but thankfully the CPS and the police are now supporting them in their campaign for justice.

"The clients we look after have strikingly similar accounts and prove that predators have a modus operandi.

"These victims have also had to relive the traumatic moments of their abuse multiple times to get their voice heard.

"This is not because they will make money from it. It is because they finally have a voice that is being listened to.

"Never again can silence surround these types of crimes, which is why Government need to consider a form of mandatory reporting for institutions to bolster the law."