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Focus on suspect, not just abuse victims’ credibility – Starmer

Child abuse guidelines are to be reformed, with more focus on the suspect instead of victims’ credibility, the director of public prosecutions is to announce.

Kier Starmer will outline new plans to guide prosecutors and police.

Currently characteristics often associated with victims, such as alcohol issues or distrust of authority, can put their credibility in doubt. But more focus needs to be placed on the suspect, Starmer will say.

The move follows the Jimmy Savile scandal, where it emerged the TV presenter committed over 200 sexual offences over 54 years. Starmer is expected to say: “We cannot afford another Savile moment.”

The College of Policing will develop a new policy, with agreement of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Association of Chief Police Officers, to replace the current 19 sets of guidance.

A new panel will review cases where alleged child abuse perpetrators are not charged and offer training to police and prosecutors.

Starmer will add: “At the moment there is a great deal of focus on whether the victim is telling the truth. We need to look equally carefully at the account the suspect has given – look at the context, the pattern of behaviour and make the necessary links.”

Alan Wardle head of corporate affairs at children’s charity NSPCC, said: “Making them think they will be taken seriously and that they’re not going to be crucified by the whole process as they go through the criminal justice system is really important in helping tackle the scourge of child sexual abuse in this country.”

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