‘Predator at 13’ case lawyers facing inquiry Barrister and judge face sex case inquiries

A BARRISTER and judge are to face separate inquiries after it emerged a 13-year-old sex attack victim was labelled “predatory” and “sexually experienced” in court.

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Robert Colover made the comments as prosecutor in the case of 41-year-old paedophile Neil Wilson, now of York, who ultimately walked from court with an eight-month suspended sentence after admitting he had engaged in sexual activity with the girl at his home.

Judge Nigel Peters QC said he took into account that the girl looked and behaved older than she was when he decided Wilson’s punishment.

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Mr Colover has been suspended from prosecuting sexual offence cases while his conduct is reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), while Judge Peters’ remarks are to be investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the CPS was “absolutely right” to label Mr Colover’s comments as inappropriate. “It isn’t appropriate. We need a criminal justice system that stands up properly for victims,” he said.

Mr Colover, a self-employed barrister, told a hearing at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday: “The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.”

Wilson, 41, who lived in Romford, Essex, at the time of the offences, now faces having his sentence reviewed after Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed to examine the case.

As well as receiving a number of complaints from individuals and an organisation, the CPS was confronted by a petition with 15,000 signatures demanding Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer investigate the language used by Mr Colover.

A CPS spokesman Mr Starmer will be undertaking a review of the case to determine what happened and to decide what action needs to be taken.

He added: “We are now considering the involvement of this barrister in sexual offence prosecutions and have advised his chambers that we will not instruct him in any ongoing or future cases involving sexual offences in the meantime.”

“The word ‘predatory’ in this context should not have been used and is of real concern to the CPS. It is not consistent with the work that we have undertaken alongside the judiciary and others in the past year to improve attitudes towards victims of abuse.

“We expect all of our prosecutors, including self-employed barristers who act on our behalf, to follow our guidance in these very difficult cases.”

Wilson admitted two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child. Police also found images of child abuse and bestiality at his home.

The Office for Judicial Complaints confirmed it had received complaints about the remarks made by Judge Peters and they would be considered.

A statement for the watchdog said: “The Office for Judicial Complaints has received a number of complaints about the remarks made by HHJ Peters QC during the sentencing of a defendant at Snaresbrook Crown Court on August 5. The complaints will be considered in accordance with the Judicial Discipline Prescribed Procedure Regulations 2006.”

A petition started by the founder of EveryDay Victim Blaming, who is known only as Jo, called on the DPP to look at Mr Colover’s remarks. Reacting to the action taken with Mr Colover, Jo, whose petition soared to nearly 30,000 signatures, said: “When I heard what this man had said I was sure he would end up getting away with it – but 30,000 people sent a huge message on change.org that we will not stand for blaming the victims of sexual abuse for what has happened to them.”

She added: “I hope it’s the start of a real step change in how the legal establishment deals with these kinds of cases. Now I hope that the CPS agrees to meet with victims’ groups so we can work together to stop this happening again.”

Labour MP Emily Thornberry, shadow Attorney General, said: “It is appalling that, after the scandals of Jimmy Savile and Rochdale, these awful Lolita prejudices are still being served up in court, and by the prosecution of all people.”

Children’s charity Barnardo’s insists that young people cannot consent to being abused. Alison Worsley, deputy director of strategy at Barnardo’s, said: “Children can never truly consent to their own abuse. It is plain wrong to imply in any way that the experiences of sexually exploited children are something they bring on themselves.”