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MP welcomes latest moves to shield sex attack victims
NEW court guidelines to help vulnerable sex victims have been heralded in Oxford as an “important step forward”.
The new advice, drawn up after high profile cases such as the Bullfinch grooming gang trial, tells prosecutors to focus on the credibility of allegations not the witnesses.
The guidelines warn prosecutors that factors such as memory inconsistencies and drug use should not be allowed to undermine a victim’s credibility.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, pictured, who has campaigned on behalf of vulnerable sex attack witnesses, last night welcomed the new guidelines but said more needed to be done.
She said: “They are a very important step forward, but they can only deal with part of the problem facing vulnerable witnesses in these cases.
“To fully reform court processes to support vulnerable witnesses, we also need to deal with over aggressive cross examination by multiple defence barristers, we need to roll out the pre-recorded video evidence which is now being piloted and we need automatic ground rules hearings for every case.”
The 18-week Operation Bullfinch trial, which ended in May, saw seven men jailed for a total of 95 years for grooming, drugging, raping and prostituting girls as young as 11 in Oxford. The mother of one Oxford sex grooming victim last night said her 16-year-old daughter – known as Girl 5 in the trial – was branded a liar when giving evidence at the Old Bailey because she wore make up and used drugs and alcohol.
She said: “What those men did was make sure they were incapable of having control over their bodies. It was how they were able to abuse the girls.
“It is everyone’s worst nightmare to relive what happened in court but to be called a liar as well is unbelievable.”
She added: “More should be put into the victims’ care after giving evidence.”
Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said: “We welcome this move to confront the myths of child sexual abuse and to concentrate on the facts of the case and the behaviour of the offender.”
Alan Wardle, of the NSPCC, added: “The trauma of suffering sexual abuse should not be followed by a legal process that becomes a trial for the young victim. This is not the complete solution but it's certainly a solid and welcome start.”
It comes after Conservative Ms Blackwood’s campaign to give police greater powers to restrict the freedom of suspected sex offenders was voted through the Commons on Monday.
She said: “These orders will mean that more victims can be protected, more grooming can be disrupted and more sex tourism can be prevented.”
The list of common myths and stereotypes covers:
- The victim invited sex by the way they dressed or acted
- The victim used alcohol or drugs and was therefore sexually available
- The victim didn’t scream, fight or protest so they must have been consenting
- The victim didn’t complain immediately, so it can't have been a sexual assault
- The victim is in a relationship with the alleged offender and is therefore a willing sexual partner
- A victim should remember events consistently
- Children can consent to their own sexual exploitation
- Child sexual exploitation is only a problem in certain ethnic/cultural communities
- Only girls and young women are victims of child sexual abuse
- Children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are not abused
- There will be physical evidence of abuse
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