Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Public consultation on the Interim Guidance on Victims’ Right to Review ends today (5 September 2013), comments can be emailed to:

Our comments on the consultation are below.

Dear CPS consultation team/ VRR team,

Church Survivors request that the Victims' Right to Review process (VRR) is extended to cover historic cases of child sexual abuse. Church Survivors want the process of CPS review to include cases that collapsed - at trial or en route to trial - due to mistakes made by the Police or CPS in the investigation, presentation and prosecution of a case.

VRR: Point 30: 'It is an important principle that people should be able to rely on decisions taken by the CPS as being final and that such decisions should not ordinarily be revoked. However, we also recognise that a careful balance must be struck between providing certainty to the public in our decision making and not allowing wrong decisions to stand. It is right, therefore, that the CPS will sometimes have to look again at a prosecution decision, and change it if it is found to be wrong, in order to maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. If a decision is found to be wrong, it may be necessary to commence or re-institute criminal proceedings.'

We believe that the VRR should be extended to cover historic cases of child sexual abuse. 

The Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel appears to be a positive development but it does not cover historic cases of child sexual abuse that went to trial and collapsed at court, or en route to court, due to mistakes made by the Police or CPS in the investigation, presentation and prosecution of a case.

Changes to either or both the VRR, and the CSAR panel, would help survivors to access justice that has been denied to them and restore confidence in the justice system.

The CPS had successful outcomes in only 55% of its Crown Court cases (2011/12). In 2011, one third of cracked or ineffective trials in England and Wales were the result of the prosecution failing to offer evidence, not being ready, or a prosecution witness being absent. (In the Public Interest: Reforming the Crown Prosecution Service: Karen Sosa, Policy Exchange:

Making these changes to either the VRR or the CSAR panel, will help survivors to access justice that has been denied to them, and will restore confidence in the justice system.

Church Survivors, 5 Sept 2013

Monday, 2 September 2013

Interim Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse

Following the publication of the 'Interim Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse' by the CPS, we have submitted the following points to the consultation (deadline for submissions: 3rd September 2013):

Dear CPS consultation team,

1. We request that the CPS case review process (VRR) for survivors of child sexual abuse is extended to include cases that failed to proceed at court due to mistakes made in the investigation and presentation of evidence. There should be potential for a retrial in such cases. The CPS and Police must be accountable for mistakes and 'an apology' for inadequate CPS or Police work is not sufficient redress for survivors.

We want the processes of evidence transcription, statement writing, and subsequent evidence checks by the Police and CPS to be improved:

2. Evidence should be accurately transcribed and written up in statements (to a good standard of English) by trained Police Officers; it is important that officers have time to do these tasks, and that they have the requisite skill set to do the job.
3. Breathing space between the initial submission of evidence and the signing of a witness statement is vital. Evidence post-transcription should be rechecked at a later date (one week later?) by Police Officers, along with the witness, both before and after a statement is signed.

4. Liaison between the Police and CPS should be improved so that they work together to ensure the delivery of professional services for survivors, from disclosure to court.

5.  The process of CPS case review should be conducted by trained and experienced professional staff and, where relevant, should include the Police. 

The CPS should check the evidence case bundle and should review a case throughout its course, and whenever necessary, and should conduct a full review before any case proceeds to court: evidence (including video transcripts) should be checked against Police statements, paying particular attention to the dates of alleged offences. Problems identified should be acted upon immediately to avoid a case collapsing at court. The golden rule should always be: take time, take care, and get it right.

6. At court, victims should be included in adjournments/meetings e.g. where evidence is re-examined by the Judge, CPS and Police. Late evidence submitted by the defence must be scrutinised and its accuracy checked.

7. Evaluate the use of crime impact statements. If they are useful, survivors should be informed of their relevance and the statements should be recorded by trained staff.

We are sending these points to the CPS team via:
Church Survivors