The new guidelines for dealing with child sex abuse cases have been welcomed by Derbyshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, says that the new guidance published yesterday (17 October) will mark “the most fundamental attitude shift” in the criminal justice system in a generation. It covers the treatment of victims, how a prosecution case should be prepared and clearly puts the victim’s needs first and foremost.
This development coincided with the publication of the official crime statistics for England and Wales, which show that the number of sexual offences recorded by the police last year showed a 9 per cent increase.
Deputy Commissioner Dhindsa said: “These new guidelines illustrate that calls for change have been heard and heeded, which I welcome wholeheartedly. It is absolutely vital that both victims and anyone who suspects abuse have confidence in the system, so that they will report it.”
In Derbyshire, in the twelve month sending 30 June 2013, reports of sexual offences rose by 4 per cent, compared to the previous 12 months. The increase is attributed at least in part to the publicity surrounding high profile cases such as Operation Yewtree (Jimmy Savile) and successful prosecutions such as Operation Retriever in Derbyshire.
The Deputy Commissioner continued: “Such cases have encouraged more people to come forward to report this diabolical type of crime so these new guidelines, which look set to improve the victim’s journey through the whole criminal justice process, are very timely.
“While I’m pleased to see more people reporting such incidents, I’m not complacent. No-one is. We are well aware that this is an area where under-reporting is likely for a variety of reasons and we are doing everything we can to encourage people to contact the police or the other agencies who are there to help and support them.
“Victims of child sexual abuse are exceedingly vulnerable young people. They and those around them need to be sure that if they report abuse they will be treated with appropriate sensitivity and that they will be taken seriously. Thankfully, we are very fortunate in Derbyshire as we have police and partner agencies who are specially trained in helping those who report this type of crime.”
The guidelines will also highlight ways in which victims of abuse can be manipulated and blackmailed to keep quiet, which include threats to publish indecent images or implicating victims in other offences.
They also seek to raise awareness of how victims in some ethnic communities are controlled by offenders who might use notions of "honour" or "shame" to deter them.
Recently the Commissioner received a report on the Constabulary’s response to rape and sexual assault in the county. This highlighted that, working with partners, the Force is continually looking at ways of improving the support to all victims of rape and sexual offences in order to encourage more people to report crime. The Domestic Violence and Serious Sexual Violence Governance Board (DV/SSV), for example, is currently looking at increasing access to Sexual Abuse Referral Centre (SARC) facilities in the north of the county.
The in-depth report also looked at the management of violent and sexual offenders undertaken by the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) in the county. The number of offenders managed within the MAPPA framework continues to increase each year which is partly due to the Force’s proactive work in targeting both on-line and direct contact sex offenders. As a result, the Force has increased staffing within its Dangerous Persons Management Unit (DPMU) and is now better placed to manage the risk posed by these individuals.
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Posted on Monday 21st October 2013