In the past few weeks he has started drafting a "victim's law", working in conjunction with Lady Lawrence, Stephen Lawrence's mother, which Labour has promised to pass if elected.Oh, this is ominous.
Starmer isn't at the stage of making recommendations yet, and will hold his first victims' taskforce seminar on 7 April, but he has a clear analysis of the key problems.*takes deep breath*
He is troubled by how few victims of sexual crimes come forward and hopes to make changes to the system that will make reporting a crime less onerous.Fantastic! That’s just what we need, a way for Chantelle to report that Wayne has besmirched her honour even quicker.
He is particularly struck by the tiny percentage of people who came forward to make allegations of abuse against Jimmy Savile during his lifetime.Because there’s no way there could be any other reason, like, say, the fear that you might have to prove your allegations in court when you were sued.
He is also concerned about the difficulties victims face once they decide to report a crime, particularly if they do not resemble a model victim, according to age-old preconceptions about how victims should behave.Quite! The vital demographics changes have to be accounted for, don't they? How else can Chantelle present herself as a shrinking violet in court who has never even held a man's hand when the defence can counter that in court with her own Facebook profile?
He doesn't blame the police for not pursuing the cases. "I think they were trying to do their best, but genuinely thought: 'We are not going to win this case, because of all these factors.' That's because these issues are always probed at trial, and still are. These will classically be the lines of cross-examination." He concluded that the criminal justice system "has been set up for the model victim but not real victims".And by 'real victims' it seems he means women. Where in his single-track mind gay men or lesbians fit in, heaven knows. Perhaps, like Queen Victoria, no-one's ever explained this to him?
"Those assumptions are very deeply entrenched. If you go to a police station to report a burglary, the first question is not usually 'are you telling the truth?' And yet that is very often the starting place when it is a sexual offence."Well, that’s because there’s no point reporting your car’s been stolen if the police can see it sitting there on your drive. Or that there’s been a forced entry when there’s no sign of broken glass or a jimmied doorframe.
But the very nature of many sexual allegations is that the accuser and accusee are alone. It's 'he said, she said'...
Another key problem he has already identified is the adversarial nature of the legal system, which often allows multiple cross-examinations of witnesses, and which can be so brutal in its treatment of victims that they many afterwards they would never voluntarily go through it again (making further prosecutions in gang-related cases, for example, impossible to pursue). He argues that the 200-year-old system might have served its time.This is a genuinely frightening glimpse into the mindset of the wreckers and the forces behind so many of our crumbling, no longer fit for purpose institutions.
"The big question here is whether the adversarial system is suitable for these kind of cases," he says, although he will not be drawn on what an alternative system might involve. "When you put that altogether there is a problem. Most people don't have the confidence to come forward. If you do come forward, there's the risk that assumptions will be applied that don't hold water. Then if you get through charge, and go to trial, you have victims who say they would never repeat that. "How else can the system work but in a 'you must prove your case' fashion? Does he want to see juries abolished, and rape cases tried before judges (who have had all the necessary 'training') alone? I fear that'll be the proposal...
Starmer met John and Penny Clough, the parents of Jane Clough, a nurse who was stabbed to death by her ex-partner while he was on bail, charged with raping her. "If they listened to some of the victims, some of the campaigners, they would come up with a much better system. We just want to change it for the better. It isn't working. It is weighted in favour of the defendant. The victim comes nowhere. Look at the Ministry of Justice spending – of the entire budget, only 1% is spent on victims' services."What was I saying in the preceding post about victims and their role in the judicial system?