We take issue over Sir Keir’s record as DPP
07 February, 2020
• WE take issue with the letter from Martin Plaut, (Attacks on Starmer’s record as director of public prosecutions are simply wrong, January 30).
He claims rape “…is one of the issues [Sir Keir] feels most strongly about and has worked on most assiduously. His determination has been applauded by the victims of these crimes. When he left office as DPP in 2013 prosecutions for these appalling offences were at their highest.”
Sir Keir has been applauded by some, but others, including ourselves who work with many victims, have criticised his refusal to end the Crown Prosecution Service policy of prosecuting rape survivors who are disbelieved by the police.
We have worked with a number of women the British police bullied to retract: some did, others refused but all were treated as criminals.
One woman raped at age 15 was charged with lying when police claimed to have found no sperm on her T-shirt where her rapist had ejaculated.
We helped get a second investigation by another police force who found the sperm and the man was finally prosecuted. She was saved from prison and later sued the police for £20,000.
Many are not so fortunate and face long sentences – often longer than convicted rapists; one woman is in prison for 10 years.
Another woman, attacked by strangers on her way home, was given a three-year sentence while evidence of the assault was lost or not pursued; her brother had complained of police racism – did that play a part?
We raised such cases at a meeting with Sir Keir Starmer when he was Director of Public Prosecutions (2008-2013), demonstrating how the prosecution of disbelieved victims skews police investigations and undermines women’s ability to report rape.
To no avail – the policy remains. That police and CPS have got worse since Sir Keir left is not evidence that he was good.
Their decision that victims must hand over mobile phones and social media history, medical and counselling records, which are disclosed to their attacker, has, of course, led to a further drop in rape prosecutions. In most British cases it is not the rapists who are on trial but their victims.
Add to this austerity which has made women and children more vulnerable to violence, and has cut escape routes – refuges, benefits, etc.
When under 3 per cent of reported rapes lead to a conviction, rapists have almost complete impunity. Sir Keir didn’t feel strongly enough against rape to confront police sexism, racism and other prejudices, and press for better investigations when he had the power to do so.
Women Against Rape