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Child Abuse Victims

Volume 556: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2013

The Crown Prosecution Service takes all allegations of child abuse very seriously. Supporting victims of child abuse is vital to successful prosecutions. The CPS works closely with the police and voluntary sector agencies to ensure that proper support is provided to victims at all stages.

In the past two years, reports of child abuse have shocked the entire country. Currently, at least 13 inquiries are taking place, including three BBC inquiries into Jimmy Savile, a Department of Health investigation into Broadmoor, a CPS inquiry, and inquiries into child protection in Rotherham and Rochdale. What discussions has the Minister had with other ministerial colleagues to ensure all that work is pulled together, and to ensure that all victims of child abuse receive the support and protection they deserve?

The Director of Public Prosecutions is working closely with all other authorities and took a personal lead in September by holding a round-table to consider how child sexual exploitation offences can be tackled. Witness care units are important and new Crown Prosecution Service guidance on child sexual exploitation is due in the new year. A great deal is being done, and special measures are being put in place to help witnesses give evidence.

My hon. Friend is probably aware that a small team is looking into the history of cases of child abuse complaints in Northern Ireland. One member of the team is an ex-senior inspector in the Metropolitan police who explained to me that, looking back at cases from 1920, believe it or not, one stark fact is the astonishing lack of support for victims, including from the Crown Prosecution Service. Would my hon. Friend be interested in meeting him at the right time to consider whether there is anything from his expertise and research that would be of help?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that offer, which I will certainly take up. He is right to say that support for witnesses is crucial to enable them to give their evidence in a confident and effective way. That is why the witness care units, the use of the voluntary sector supporters and the other work going into special measures at court to make it easier for witnesses to give evidence are all important. I look forward to the meeting.

I welcome the steps taken by Keir Starmer and Nazir Afzal to try to reorganise how the Crown Prosecution Service deals with these matters. However, the fact remains that in relation to Rotherham there have been no prosecutions this year in the whole of south Yorkshire, despite 600 victims having been identified in the past few years. Does the Solicitor-General share my concern? Can we please see more prosecutions of the perpetrators?

As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, it depends on the police investigating cases thoroughly and then on the Crown Prosecution Service reviewing them to see what evidence is needed. A full review was carried out after the Rochdale case, which was particularly concerning. That was last autumn, since when the CPS has been working on the new guidance, which I hope will lead to more prosecutions. I accept the need for more prosecutions in this area, but we want to establish best practice, and that guidance will be out soon.

On another form of child abuse—female genital mutilation—there have been no prosecutions whatsoever in this country since it became illegal. Does the Solicitor-General share my hope that the Director of Public Prosecutions’ robust new action plan will lead to more progress in this area?

Yes, I certainly do. I have personally raised and discussed this subject with the DPP and was delighted that he held the round-table last September, which led to the robust action plan that my hon. Friend mentions. That is about improving the evidence available, identifying what is hindering investigations and prosecutions, exploring how other jurisdictions deal with these cases and ensuring that the police and prosecution work together closely on what are very difficult cases.