We will carry on pursuing old sex offenders
By Andrew Willis
Last Thursday Alison Saunders, who is the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, wrote an opinion in The Times of London. In it she said that despite the recent acquittals of celebrities like Dave Lee Travis a famous DJ, she has no regrets. The UK, and many other countries, have no statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse.
Most states in the US have 5 years statutes of limitations meaning that victims are silenced 15 years before they are able to speak out – which is about the best possible way of ensuring a steady supply of future victims.
“Rape and sexual assaults are some of the hardest cases to prosecute. Our conviction rate for rape has increased to just over 60 per cent, while for all cases taken to court it is more than 80 per cent, highlighting the difficulty with rape and sexual offences. Often there are no witnesses, it comes down to one person’s word against another; the accuser was in a relationship with the accused; and, of course, not every accused person is guilty. We consider these cases very carefully, so many do not get to court.”
The problem is that most rape cases, especially child rape cases, never make it into a prosecutor’s office let alone a courtroom. Reporting is the issue and here the UK take a far more sympathetic approach to victims.
“Our job is not to decide innocence or guilt. We filter out cases where the evidence is too weak, but where there is sufficient evidence we must let the jury do its job. These decisions are not taken lightly, but the prosecutor does not have the benefit of testing the evidence in the way the trial process rightly allows. Juries have a much harder task than prosecutors for they must be sure of guilt: logic and justice dictate that there will be both acquittals and convictions. That task is even harder when many years have passed as there may be no forensic evidence and little corroborative evidence.
The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions then tackled the question that a lot of people ask, “Why do victims remain silent for so many years?” Victims need to know they will be believed. They need to time to come to terms with the trauma they have suffered.
“Some may ask why the victim remained silent for so many years, but there can be many reasons for this. They can often feel shame, even though the shame is not theirs to feel. They can feel the system is against them and be reluctant to expose to strangers intimate details they would prefer to forget. Who can blame 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.”
Recent research shows it takes the average survivor more than 20 years to disclose their sexual abuse as a child. This is reassuring to me as I said nothing for over 30 years. I was abused in the UK in 1964 by the former teacher mentioned below. Had I been abused in New York state my abuser would still be free to abuse more children. He was still working in a school with access to young children when he was arrested.
“Let me give you a few examples: a 40-year-old former teacher is serving 12 years for offences dating back 14 years after being convicted at Swindon Crown Court. In Leicester a defendant was sentenced to 18 years for sexual offences going back almost 20 years. A 14-year sentence was passed at Maidstone Crown Court for offences from the 1960s. In December another former teacher was jailed by Lewes Crown Court for offences between 1964 and 1976.”
Then Alison Saunders tackles the big question. Should these prosecutions have taken place? As I mentioned, they could not in New York or most states in the US. Here our public have yet to become horrified at how our lawmakers protect child abusers and not our children.
“Should these prosecutions have taken place? Of course. Parliament agrees, as it has set no time limit on bringing rape and sexual offense cases, as it hasfor other offences. The public would be horrified if we did not prosecute because a complaint came many years after the event.
It used to be that if a rape victim wore a short skirt her credibility was undermined. Thankfully we have moved 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. That remains the case and I will do my utmost to ensure that we continue to support them and bring their cases to court wherever possible.”
Join us in calling for the passage of the Child Victims Act an act that removes statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse allowing victims their day in court, ensuring perpetrators are convicted and end up on the sex offenders register – because as long as only one in three rapists spends a day in jail the sex offenders register is keeping your children safe from only three percent of rapists.
You can change that.