MP calls for lessons to be learnt in abuse cases

MP Nicola Blackwood

MP Nicola Blackwood

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OXFORD West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood has called for special measures for vulnerable victims to be rolled out nationally in the wake of the Rotherham sex exploitation scandal.

The politician wants pre-recorded evidence to be used across the country in trials where victims could be affected by intimidation, such as sexual abuse cases.

She was addressing Home Secretary Theresa May on the report by Professor Alexis Jay which found that at least 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham. Speaking in the House of Common Ms Blackwood said: “Professor Jay’s report has shocked the nation and we have rightly heard many calls for prosecutions, but that relies on a criminal justice process that protects victims from the kind of intimidation and disbelief that seems to have been endemic in Rotherham.

“The Government’s pilot on pre-recorded evidence is a vital tool for protecting very vulnerable witnesses from being re-traumatised in the court process and for increasing the chances of prosecutions.” Under the provisions, vulnerable victims would be allowed to have their evidence and cross-examinations pre-recorded.

Ms Blackwood secured a change in the law which gave police officers new powers to pursue civil court orders against suspected child sex abusers – even if they cannot be prosecuted in a criminal court.

Her campaign followed Operation Bullfinch – the investigation into the grooming and abuse of young and vulnerable girls in Oxford, which led to seven men being jailed for a total of 95 years last June.

Mrs May replid: “My honourable friend is absolutely right, and I commend her for the work she did following the revelations in Oxford to help us to change the legislation to strengthen the ability to deal with such issues.

“The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims is waiting for the full evaluation of the pilot. We would want to be able to roll it out, but it is right that we should look to ensure that we do that in the right way.”

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