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News Round-Up Week Ending 19.2.16

(Posted on 19/02/16)


‘Met Wrong to Doubt Claims of Abuse.’

Vera Baird, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, has disagreed with the Met’s new policy of not automatically believing alleged abuse victims. 

“Thousands of victims of sexual abuse have been denied justice through the attitude the Met commissioner now advocates,” she said. “Sexual abuse is extremely difficult to report, because of its intimate nature and its undermining impact on victims. They have to be told that police will not doubt them as they have habitually done in the past, but will believe them as they do in any other kind of complaint, ensure that they get support and investigate the case thoroughly.”

Baird, a Labour Party activist and former Solicitor General, said criticism of the Met commissioner had arisen after the premature publication of two individuals’ names, against whom no charges were ever brought.

“The key problem was the irresponsible, presumably glory-seeking publication of their names, not that complaints should not be believed in sexual abuse cases in the same way that a burglary victim is believed and their complaint investigated,” she said.

Others have suggested that Hogan-Howe has been attempting to deflect criticism of the Met’s badly run investigation, Operation Midland.

“We are absolutely outraged and deeply saddened that he has fallen into line with the many people and institutions who are trying to push back against the change in culture which was in the victim’s favour,” said Lucy Duckworth of Minister & Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (Mascas). “It is an irresponsible thing for a man in his position to say. Not only for those who have been abused, but because those who do abuse will be encouraged to think they will be able to continue their activity and get away with it.”

No Compensation in Sight for Miscarriages of Joint Enterprise

Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling may lead to the re-examination of hundreds of joint enterprise convictions for serious offences thanks to a 32-year-old judicial error.

However, anyone found to have been wrongly convicted is unlikely to secure compensation for time in prison as such an award depends on exoneration following discovery of “new or newly discovered facts”, which will not be part of many joint enterprise appeals. This paradox is only too familiar to the likes of Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam, wrongfully imprisoned without compensation.

“Those who are successful and are now found to have suffered a miscarriage of justice because of the 30-year long misinterpretation of the law on joint enterprise will not receive any compensation for time served in prison and financial loss,” said Daniel Machover of law firm Hickman and Rose.

Legal Aid Victory for Domestic Abuse Victims

The Court of Appeal has found flaws in the Government’s changes to legal aid access for victims of domestic abuse, particularly one rule change denying legal aid in claims more than two years old.

“For nearly three years we know that the strict evidence requirements for legal aid have cut too many women off from the very family law remedies that could keep them and their children safe,” Emma Scott, Director of the Rights of Women group, responded. “Today’s judgement is important recognition of women’s real life experiences of domestic violence and means that more women affected by violence will have access to advice and representation in the family courts.”

“This ruling means that access to safety and justice will no longer be denied to the very people the Government expressly sought to protect with its amendments to the regulations,” Law Society President, Jonathan Smithers, added.

“We are determined to ensure victims of domestic violence can get legal aid whenever they need it,” countered the Ministry of Justice. “We have made it easier for victims of domestic violence to obtain legal aid, by ensuring a broader range of evidence qualifies. This has contributed to a 19 per cent rise in the number of grants awarded.”