Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, has today written to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to demand an urgent rethink of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to weaken guidelines that specialist barristers must deal with every stage of a rape prosecution.
Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General, wrote:
“Rape campaigners have denounced this as backsliding. The trial process can be notoriously traumatic for rape victims. Historically, courts have not always been sympathetic arenas for rape victims and this put many of them off from coming forward in the first place. This is why it is so important that rape victims can count on the fact that those handling their cases are highly experienced and sensitive to their needs.
“It is not acceptable that your Government’s decision to slash the Crown Prosecution Service’s budget by 25 per cent over the course of the Parliament means that rape victims cannot get the legal support to which the particularly harrowing nature of their ordeal entitles them.”
Vera Baird QC, former Solicitor General and Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner candidate in Northumbria, said:
“The fact that it is now a ‘should’ rule and not a ‘must’ rule will mean that in practice barristers’ clerks are likely to conclude that there isn’t really a rule at all. The whole drive towards specially trained barristers for rape cases risks losing momentum and go into reverse. This is really shocking news, especially when you consider the extent to which the CPS has invested in this.”