News Roundup Week Ending 6 June
By Charlotte Rowles on 07/06/14Share:
7 June 2014
New film from the Justice Alliance highlighting impact of legal aid cuts includes interview with Patrick Maguire wrongly convicted aged 14 for explosives offences which never happened.(see Watch Video at bottom of page)
6 June 2014
Dominic Cassini, The BBC’s Home Affairs correspondent, reports on the latest developments in approaching rape cases.
Measures aimed at improving the conviction rate for rape in courts in England and Wales have been launched by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Alison Saunders and the leading national police officer for rape called for a renewed effort to dispel "myths". The plan includes monitoring the quality of decisions when police decide to drop investigations.
The conviction rate for rape dropped in the last 12 months after five years of steady improvements. In 2007-08, 58% of cases brought to trial resulted in a conviction. The conviction rate hit a high of 63% in 2011-12 but has since fallen back to 60%.
Separate figures provided to MPs show that the proportion of allegations referred by the police to prosecutors for a decision on whether to go to trial fell in 2012-13, despite a 30% increase in the number of rapes being reported. The most recent figures for 2014 suggest that the referral rate is beginning to rise again.
Police sent 5,400 cases to the CPS in 2012-13, representing 31% of all reports they had received. In 2008-09 the referral rate was 50%.
Ms Saunders said the decline in successful rape convictions "must be addressed immediately". "Over the last year we have worked hard to increase the volume of rape cases referred by the police and charged by prosecutors and our latest figures are certainly encouraging," she said.
"But even though there have been slightly more defendants convicted, the steady increase in conviction rates we have seen in recent years has halted, and this must be addressed immediately. "I am determined to ensure our long-term progress to tackle rape continues, particularly in dispelling the myths and stereotypes surrounding these types of cases."
The DPP said the joint CPS-police action plan made clear that the focus of any investigation, or preparation of a prosecution, must focus on the credibility of the allegations, not the credibility of the victim.
She said: "Myths and stereotypes still pervade throughout society and have the potential to influence jurors too. We have a part to play in fighting any pre-conceptions through the way we handle and present our cases to those juries. "
The key measures include:
Ensuring that prosecutions focus more clearly on what the law says about consent to sex in complicated cases.
Reviewing the operation of specialist Crown Prosecution Service teams and the barristers they use to present evidence to juries in court.
Monitoring police decisions when they decide to take no further action on some allegations, including analysing why and how that decision was authorised.
Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the national policing lead for adult sex offences, said: "All the changes we have made in the way police deal with sexual offences - specialist training of officers, the introduction of early evidence kits, greater access to sexual assault referral centres and working closely with support groups - are changes that have emerged from looking at ourselves and realising that we can do things better.
"We've taken another hard look at how we do things and found room for further improvements.
"We are determined that the service we provide to victims is the best it can be, so that more victims have the confidence to report, knowing that they will get the support they need to go through the criminal justice process and that we will do everything we can to bring offenders to justice."
5 June 2014
The Guardian’s Alexandra Topping reports on the latest arrests in Operation Yewtree.
Former pop star Glitter, 70, whose real name is Paul Gadd, was the first person to be arrested as part of Operation Yewtree.
Gary Glitter is to be charged with eight sexual offences relating to girls aged between 12 and 14, the Crown Prosecution Service said on Thursday.
Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, became the first person to be arrested as part of Operation Yewtree in relation to the police inquiry into sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile, when he was taken into police custody in October 2012.
The 70-year-old was questioned by police for more than nine hours, and has been on bail ever since. But after receiving new evidence as recently as March this year, the CPS have confirmed they believe they now have enough evidence to bring the case to trial.
Announcing the decision to charge him Baljit Ubhey, chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, said: "We have carefully considered the evidence gathered by the Metropolitan Police Service in relation to Paul Gadd, also known as Gary Glitter. He was arrested on 28 October 2012 over allegations of sexual offences and the police have been providing material to the CPS since July 2013, with the most recent material submitted in March 2014."
"Having completed our review, we have concluded, in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors, that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Gadd to be charged with eight offences under the Sexual Offences Act 1956. These relate to two female complainants aged between 12 and 14 at the time of the alleged offending between 1977 and 1980. "
Glitter is accused of four counts of indecent assault involving the first complainant, who was aged 12 or 13 at the time, between 31 January and 31 May 1977.
He is also accused of one count of "administering a drug or other thing in order to facilitate sexual intercourse" and one count of sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 between the same dates.
He is also charged with two counts of indecent assault between 1 October 1979 and 31 December 1980 involving the second complainant, who was aged 13 or 14 at the time.
Glitter will appear at Westminster magistrates court on 19 June 2014. Ubhey said that five allegations made by two further complainants had been dropped, because the CPS deemed there was "insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction".
5 June 2014
Rowena Mason and Sandra Laville report on the secret terrorism trial in the Guardian.
The senior Conservative said the default in the court system should be transparency but there were instances where it was right to hold hearings in secret.
"But in this particular case, if there is a really good reason, if it is in the interests of justice for the judge to take a decision one way or the other, so be it; that's why we have them. That's why we trust the judges, that's why we have them, to take the right decisions of behalf of all of us."
Lawyers contesting the decision at the court of appeal on Wednesday said the plan amounted to "an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice" and was inconsistent with democracy and the rule of law.
Until now it has not even been possible to report the existence of the forthcoming trial against the two men, known only as AB and CD. But three appeal court judges lifted a gagging order allowing reporting of a hearing challenging the plans.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, condemned the secrecy. She said: "Transparency isn't an optional luxury in the justice system – it's key to ensuring fairness and protecting the rule of law.
The court was told that the crown has sought and obtained legal orders on the grounds of national security, arguing that if the trial were held in public the prosecution might not proceed with the case.
Appealing against orders made by Mr Justice Nicol at an earlier hearing last month, Hudson said the secrecy around the trial was wholly unprecedented.
He said that national security could not be pursued without regard to the values of the society it was seeking to protect.
"It is quite clear that there is jurisdiction for the defendants to be anonymous and there is jurisdiction for a court to sit in private. Whether or not it is appropriate to do so is evidence-dependent," he said.
Gross said he would give the court's decision on the appeal by the media in a few days and a full judgment at a later date.
Court documents seen by Channel 4 News suggest the criminal justice system in at least one part of the country is on the brink of collapse - and a senior judge has been forced to take action.