Then-DPP Starmer apologised to persecuted victim – but continued the practice anyway
As is all too often the case, Keir Starmer’s words and actions did not match when he was – as he never tires of reminding everyone, Director of Public Prosecutions – and victims of rape suffered for it.
Starmer apologised to victims of rape who were prosecuted by his Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who were disbelieved by police – and in some cases bullied into dropping their complaints – and went so far as to personally take control of decisions on such prosecutions. But he never ended the practice – and women continued to be pursued under his personal decisions.
The Guardian reported the apology and decision to assume direct control in 2010 – but noted that Starmer was criticised by campaign group Women Against Rape (WAR) for allowing the prosecution of a victim to proceed:
We are working with several women who have been wrongly accused of making a false allegation of rape – their conviction is a miscarriage of justice resulting from a negligent and biased investigation into their rape. One of these prosecutions went ahead despite our raising it with Mr Starmer. Will his personal involvement bring these injustices to an end, or merely reinforce them?
And after Starmer took direct control, the prosecutions did not end. In 2020, seven years after Starmer left the CPS, WAR wrote to the Camden New Journal, Starmer’s local paper:
Sir Keir has been applauded by some, but others, including ourselves who work with many victims, have criticised his refusal to end the Crown Prosecution Service policy of prosecuting rape survivors who are disbelieved by the police.
[This was cut from the letter we submitted: Such cases are similar to the shocking prosecution of a young woman in Cyprus who reported rape by a group of Israeli men but was forced to retract and was herself jailed.]
We have worked with a number of women the British police bullied to retract: some did, others refused but all were treated as criminals.
One woman raped at age 15 was charged with lying when police claimed to have found no sperm on her T-shirt where her rapist had ejaculated. We helped get a second investigation by another police force who found the sperm and the man was finally prosecuted. She was saved from prison and later sued the police for £20,000.
Many are not so fortunate and face long sentences – often longer than convicted rapists; one woman is in prison for 10 years. Another woman, attacked by strangers on her way home, was given a three year sentence while evidence of the assault was lost or not pursued; her brother had complained of police racism – did that play a part?
We raised such cases at a meeting with Sir Keir Starmer when he was Director of Public Prosecutions (2008-2013), demonstrating how the prosecution of disbelieved victims skews police investigations and undermines women’s ability to report rape.
To no avail – the policy remains.
That police and CPS have got worse since Sir Keir left is not evidence that he was good.
Their decision that victims must hand over mobile phones and social media history, medical and counselling records, which are disclosed to their attacker, has of course led to a further drop in rape prosecutions.
In most British cases it is not the rapists who are on trial but their victims.
Add to this austerity which has made women and children more vulnerable to violence, and has cut escape routes – refuges, benefits, etc.
When under 3 per cent of reported rapes lead to a conviction, rapists have almost complete impunity. Sir Keir didn’t feel strongly enough against rape to confront police sexism, racism and other prejudices, and press for better investigations when he had the power to do so.
This is not an isolated example. Mr Starmer has similarly boasted that he will protect women and girls from domestic abuse if he becomes prime minister. However, as Labour leader he repeatedly ignored a whistleblower’s warnings that domestic violence victims were being ‘criminally’ and ‘sadistically’ abused and exploited by the lover of right-wing MP Khalid Mahmood, who also worked in Mahmood’s office. Instead of acting on whistleblower Elaina Cohen’s warnings, Starmer and Labour general secretary David Evans did nothing, while Mahmood wrongfully sacked Cohen.
Starmer also turned a blind eye to the persecution of Muslim woman MP Apsana Begum and fraternised with the people attempting to remove her – and is currently sheltering at least two alleged sex pests on his front bench.
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