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.