Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

The CPS Barrister and use of the term ‘predatory’

We have been contacted by the CPS today, to provide us with the outcome of the investigation into the R v Wilson case, where the prosecuting barrister used the term 'predatory in all her actions' to describe the actions of a 13 year old victim in a sexual abuse trial.

This is the statement issued by CPS UK:

 

“The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, held a Post Case Review into the case of R v Neil Wilson last week to address the comments made by prosecuting counsel at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 5 August. Counsel used the term ‘predatory’ during the sentencing hearing to describe the behaviour of a 13-year-old victim of a sexual offence.

“The DPP found there was nothing in the instructions given to counsel, including information from the police, the prosecution papers or the pre-sentence report, that could have expressly or implicitly supported describing the victim’s behaviour in such terms. Indeed, the facts of the case made clear that the adult defendant invited the victim to his home, where the offence took place.

"Following the Review, the DPP was clear that he found the language used to describe the 13-year-old victim grossly inappropriate. Counsel in the case agreed that he should not have used the expression that he did and deeply regretted his choice of words. It was agreed that he would resign from the CPS Rape Panel of advocates and will no longer undertake prosecutions involving serious sexual offences or child sexual abuse. He will remain on our general advocate panel and will still be instructed in other criminal cases. The DPP is satisfied that no further action needs be taken in relation to this case."

We didn't call for the barrister to resign, nor did we expect this as one of the outcomes. Although we appreciate the time taken by both the DPP and his team, we feel that additional training would have been of benefit in this case, and in future sexual offences cases; both for witnesses navigating the system, and those prosecuting on behalf of the Crown.

We are not convinced that the language used during R v Wilson is an exceptional case. During the Michael Turner (Michael Le Vell) trial, prosecuting barrister Eleanor Laws QC used the term ‘celebrity witch hunt’ when discussing the allegations made against Mr Turner. We believe that terms such as this have no place in a just and fair Crown Prosecution Service

We acknowledge the positive changes made within the CPS under the leadership of Keir Starmer QC, specifically in relation to domestic & sexual violence and abuse. We understand that changing the culture of an organisation can be a laborious and costly process.

Without mandatory and specialist training on the impact of trauma, myths and language, and how our frame of reference shapes it, we risk this situation occurring again.

The resignation of one member of staff does not impact on the system within which he worked.

 

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4 thoughts on “The CPS Barrister and use of the term ‘predatory’

  • L says:

    This is all very well, but what about the judge? It was his job to tell the barrister to back off, not to repeat and compound the offence.

    The language was by no means the worst that is currently being used in our courts in relation to victims by barristers and judges – the Andrade matter being a case in point. I am sorry that Mr Colover has been scapegoated for the sins of his profession and that of the judiciary, as that will not solve anything and although this comment was very wicked, his general attitude and demeanour seems far less offensive that that of many of the others – Barbara Hewson, Mohammed Tayyab Khan http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2385812/Handpicked-judges-deal-child-sex-abuse-cases-victims-greater-protection.html , Kate Blackwell http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/feb/08/sexual-abuse-victim-killed-herself-trial, and Judge Martin Rudland are all far greater obstacles to justice and far greater abusers of victims. Excluding Mr Colover only creates the illusion of the problem having been addressed whilst in reality it does no such thing. It is a form of gesture politics designed to get organisations like everyday victim blaming off the backs of politicians and the CPS. What’s more, if barristers who behave disgracefully no longer prosecute these cases, that does not prevent them from defending them, a situation in which the worst conduct usually arises as can be seen in the examples above.

    • Admin says:

      We absolutely agree with this comment.

      We are in discussions with the CPS about language, and training for their staff.

      Hopefully, they will reflect that it must be mandatory and we must be able to challenge inappropriate language in the Justice System.

  • […] In fact, our campaign would be nothing without them.  Without our supporters, we wouldn’t have generated so much interest in our Change.org petition when the Prosecutor in a sexual abuse trial called the victim ‘predatory’.  Over 55,000 people signed the petition, and we are expecting to report on the outcome of the CPS internal investigation at the end of September. The attention generated by this was astounding! When we set up the petition, we repeatedly fact checked it over and over (thanks to the journalist who helped us with that!) because we couldn’t quite believe that this statement had been made by prosecution. If the defence barrister had made this remark, we wouldn’t have launched a petition at all, such is the common nature of this type of language in domestic & sexual violence and abuse court cases. An update on this campaign is available here. […]

  • […] you’re all aware, CPS UK launched an internal investigation and completed a post case review. The outcome of this was that the prosecutor, Robert Colover, has stepped down from covering […]