Prosecutor defends sex trials in wake of Savile

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Police and prosecutors have not “over-compensated” for mistakes made over the Jimmy Savile scandal, the Director of Public Prosecutions said today.

Alison Saunders said there had not been a “knee-jerk reaction” to the Savile fallout where they were more likely to prosecute well-known defendants.

Ms Saunders also denied claims made in the wake of the acquittal of Coronation Street actor William Roache and not guilty verdicts for DJ Dave Lee Travis that there was a “crisis” for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

She said: “By their nature, cases of rape or sexual assault often come down to one person’s word against the other’s. In the past that meant that victims were not believed and many, many rapists and sexual abusers were never brought to justice. It would be wrong to swing too far the other way and bring charges every time an allegation is made. But that is not what we are doing.

“We are doing the only thing we can. We consider each case on its merits. We carefully assess whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction. And where there is we are putting the case before a jury.

“We must be careful not to establish new myths that victims come forward only for financial or other motives.

“I believe that most victims and complainants have heard that they will finally be treated with the respect they deserve. They will be listened to.

“That remains the case and I will do my utmost to ensure that we continue to support them and bring their cases to court wherever possible.

“To do anything else is to fail victims and that is not what I am here for.”

Addressing the annual conference of St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, she dismissed the so-called “crisis” following recent high-profile celebrity acquittals.

“I don’t think there is a crisis,” she said. “I don’t think we should change our approach at all.”

She said the review into the failure to prosecute Savile showed a “betrayal of victims and witnesses” and it was time for that to change.

It was entirely possible for the Crown to be right in bringing a case to court and for the jury to be right in acquitting after the evidence had been tested, and police and prosecutors should not usurp the role of the jury by not bringing these cases unless a conviction was certain.