A betrayal of Savile’s victims

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Despite a decade of policy reforms, the chances of a rape complainant seeing their attacker convicted remain stubbornly low.

Despite a decade of policy reforms, the chances of a rape complainant seeing their attacker convicted remain stubbornly low.

In the last two years, the number of suspected rapists charged and prosecuted has fallen locally – despite an increase in reported rapes.

In such a legal system – one in which the odds are perceived to be stacked against them – it is imperative that victims of sexual assault feel confident that their allegations will at the very least be taken seriously and handled with due sensitivity.

Certainly there is a need in light of the revelations about the despicable treatment afforded to Jimmy Savile’s victims to show that times have changed and that such a crime is now treated with the gravity it demands.

If police are to reassure members of the public that this is indeed the case, however, there is a clear need for them to back their words with actions.

So what sort of message does it send out when the Yorkshire police force area with the highest incidence of reported rape fails to open a key support centre for victims?

Sexual Assault Referral Centres, which provide a specialist “one-stop shop” for victims, have opened in virtually every force area in the country.

Yet authorities in West Yorkshire have been unable to deliver one, despite spending the last three years attempting to do so. In a force tainted by allegations emanating from the Savile scandal, this is regrettable.

While a lack of access to a specialist centre of this kind must be a handicap to attempts to increase rape conviction rates, it is the symbolism of the force’s failure to provide such facilities that is potentially far more damaging.

If the likelihood of victims both reporting rape and seeing through what can be a long and harrowing prosecution process is to be increased, then they must be assured that the criminal justice system is squarely on their side.

Sharp practices

Banks undermining small firms

HAVE the major banks not learned anything from their practices which exacerbated the financial crash? It is a perennial question that many will be asking after yet another report exposed the sharp practices still undertaken by some lenders.

This is highlighted by the Institute for Turnaround which has revealed the extent to which the viability of small businesses is being compromised by those bankers who appear hell-bent on imposing as many charges as possible, thereby inflating their personal bonus, rather than helping the firms in question to withstand financial pressures or to expand.

This is not a new phenomenon – Batley-born entrepreneur Lawrence Tomlinson’s recent expose of the banking sector concluded that “unscrupulous” business practices pursued by the state-supporting banking industry was “killing off” small businesses.

Yet, as Mr Tomlinson said, high fees and aggressive behaviour are incompatible with good turnaround practice. Quite the opposite. It can put people out of work and prevent people from launching their own venture.

Of course, the banks have a responsibility to lend sensibly – a duty that they neglected prior to the credit crunch. But they need to remember that small firms became the lifeblood of the economy under Margaret Thatcher and that it is this sector which is critical to this Government meeting, and exceeding, its growth targets. If the Treasury cannot exert sufficient control now when taxpayers hold such a large stake in the nationalised banks, just when is it going to be in a position to shape lending practices that are fair?

Froome on board

Aiming to secure Tour’s legacy

THE country is basking in a golden (or should that be yellow?) age of cycling, with Chris Froome seeking to secure a hat-trick of yellow jerseys for Britain as he prepares to defend his Tour de France triumph this summer.

Success over many generations is fuelled by such achievements – but it is not only a sporting legacy that many hope will be secured with the race’s visit to Yorkshire in July.

The event also has the potential to be a catalyst for a boom in the numbers of people cycling for fun, with all the attendant health benefits that this brings.

It is why this newspaper has launched the Let’s Get Cycling campaign, the aim being to ensure the legacy of the Tour’s journey through the region lives on in an increase in cyclist numbers.

It is a campaign that is being backed by Chris Froome himself, and it is to his credit that he should have taken time out from his busy schedule to give his support. With such role models, cycling’s future is

in safe hands.