Victims Need A Level Legal Playing Field With Their Abusers.

theneedleblog

On Monday 3rd February The Guardian published an article written by Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS, entitled ‘Britain’s criminal justice system fails the vulnerable. We need a Victims Law’. This profound article penned by one of Britain’s top law men, a man who spent 5 years at the sharp end of British justice, appears to have passed both the public and politicians by without the consideration it deserved. For within its text which contained many important insights borne of Mr Starmer’s long experience of dealing with child sexual abuse prosecutions was a tantalising allusion to the possibility that the UK’s criminal justice system is incompatible with the Human Rights Act.

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The principles and practices that underpin our justice system were developed long ago. There are good reasons for protecting those suspected of or charged with criminal offences – the answer to the…

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A Victims’ Journey Through the CJS

Met Police Victim Support Matrix.pngIn the pages of this blog you will find the evidence to support that no-one is doing anything to support victims of historical child sexual abuse. It is not limited to this category, but is relevant to all victims of psycho-sexual trauma, and particularly relevant for early-life trauma.

The CPS outline a “Full Assessment of Needs” – by a “properly qualified person” – and thus the benchmark is set! This is what should be happening, but who is responsible for making it happen…..and how…..and paid for by whom?

It is recognised that Victims are re-traumatised by investigations and put into a place of terrible vulnerability akin to, and probably worse, than the time of their abuse. This is compounded by “Secondary Wounding” – which is triggered by denial of assistance, which the victim might feel entitled to. Thus if we do not have a support plan in place, which provides Victims with a pathway to an assessment and appropriate therapeutic intervention – the system is abusing those Victims all over again.

We then expect Victims to participate in a lengthy legal process, with the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over their heads. Is this really what the Solicitor-General means when he says “Having a properly supported witness who feels confident in giving evidence is key!”

…….and this is all before you get to court!!! ……and there the adversarial nature of the British Criminal Justice System gets its’ teeth in! Do we seriously expect that a screen, or a “familiarisation visit” is going to overcome the traumatised state in which Victims are likely to find themselves? They have suffered abuse linked to power – how is this any different?

So…..how can a Victim help themselves? …..Apparently this is what they should do, having been given a Victim Referral Leaflet. How do they get the “Full Assessment of Needs by a properly qualified person?”……….and how on earth do they fund it? They can try the NHS, but the referral gateways just do not exist, and it is reliant on an understanding of Complex Trauma along the way. If they can access any support, it is likely to be limited, and require the determination of a “super-human” to get it! The role is left to the “Third Sector.” Are these organisations funded appropriately to provide this level of support? A proper assessment alone is likely to cost a minimum of £300 let alone the therapeutic support to follow – say a minimum of 26 sessions @ £200……..or £5,500 per person for starters! (This would be for the most straightforward of intervention – but figures are likely to be far greater!) The numbers just don’t stack up, however, you crunch them……the system is failing people badly!

The annual cost of child abuse to the UK economy is estimated at between £20-40 Billion – surely our investment in proper support would offset this and facilitate the proper execution of  Justice?

Oh…..and in case you are in any doubt about this being “an oversight” –

In 2002 a Home Affairs Select Committee published its findings in relation to historical trawls of potential victims of child sexual abuse.

David Cameron MP sat on that Committee and signed up to its findings, which included:-

THE CONDUCT OF INVESTIGATIONS INTO PAST CASES OF ABUSE IN CHILDREN’S HOMES

60.  A number of victim support organisations have made the point that trawling provides an opportunity for victims to speak up if they feel ready to do so.[102] However, these organisations expressed a general concern over the level of support available to victims during and after a ‘trawl’.[103] The Government guidance on complex child abuse investigations recommends that “An unequivocal victim support strategy and protocol should be established at the outset” of the investigation to avoid any subsequent strain on counselling services.[104]

61.  We endorse the view that, where a trawl is conducted, complainants should be offered appropriate victim support services, such as counselling, from an early stage of their involvement in the investigation.

It is time for the tide to turn, and for resources to be put in place to provide proper support. Society as a whole is paying a very high cost – but Victims are paying with their lives and their quality of life – over and over and over again!

OMG! – The MoJ Media Machine Shifts into Overdrive!

What a pleasant surprise – the MoJ accepts that male rape exists! Like internet porn, it is taking the higher ground! ……Lord….this Government is good!

On the day that the “cornflake” gets acquitted, the government announces £500,000 to provide advice and counselling to the estimated 72,000 men who need it each year. This is clearly a step in the right direction – but let us examine those numbers a fraction more closely:-

By my reckoning £500,000 across 72,000 people amounts to approximately £7 per head.  In reality, this might just about cover the administration for booking the first appointment, but any meaningful support is going to cost a minimum of £5,000 per head to have any really profound impact (say 26 sessions at £200), and thus the budget looks a bit thin (almost pathetic) for 72,000 people this year! Additionally this “one-off” budget is meant to deal with “historical victims under the age of 13 at the time of the offence…….!”

You absolute complete idiots! 

If this is meant to deal with the history of abuse of males, and include paedophilia, you are insane……….! Let us say 50 years, at an average of 36,000 offences per year (reported or otherwise) equates to……..(hang on grabs calculator……)……1,800,000 offences.

I calculate that on that basis it works out at 28p for therapy and counselling per offence.

Now it gets better…….why on earth would you limit this to historical cases where boys are aged under 13 years – what on earth is your thinking? …….this merits further explanation!

Nonetheless, the numbers appear to be ill conceived, given the limitless budgets allocate elsewhere!

I am confused…….and further wounded…….aged 14  some time ago……..

The point being…..why limit this to historical cases under 13 years of age??? Either it is universal, or it is under-funded!!!!????

Really Mr Greene….are you sure?

Victim’s Code – More Window-Dressing???

The Police clearly have a difficult job in investigating allegations of historical abuse.

These people are specialists in this area, and spend much of their time wading through the filth of our society. Their focus is on apprehending criminals, but they are human beings, and generally trying to make the world a better place. The time spent working in this area is limited, mainly due to the huge personal impact on them. Spare a thought for the officers who pursue allegations, aware that there is insufficient support for victims, but who do their utmost to make the best of a bad situation. Like a tanker, they leave a huge wake, and they know this but try to control this as best they can.

The Police do not have access to proper support for victims – and they know this! They understand that this is a force-wide issue, and people within the Met Police Paedophile Unit have tried to raise this with ACPO – but with no support???

I have a papertrail to support this, but in one of the greatest ironies of all, I will not publish it, because I do not want to put any of those people in a difficult position!! To paraphrase an email…….”you are totally right! I had 25 handicapped victims in a historical sexual abuse case – and no help to give them, and nowhere to refer them…….I felt useless!” ……I have changed the exact words to prevent internal document searches!

Why have ACPO done nothing about this? Their response is detailed separately. 2013 was a huge year for changes to prevent a repeat of Savile, or so it would appear!

Moreover, despite the “New National Group on Sexual Violence against Children & Vulnerable People,” new CPS guidelines and a new “Victim’s Code” – there is “no known change in Police policy or procedure at an operational level !!!”

Victims’ experience of the Criminal Justice System will remain unchanged!!

Support Strategy??? ……or Strategy to Undermine?

Is Support for Victims of Child Abuse Going Back in Time?

In 2002, in the wake of the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal, a Home Affairs Select Committee made several recommendations, but one of which is being so clearly ignored today, that it will inevitably lead to victims of historical abuse taking their lives.

The recommendation that in the event of historical trawls, a comprehensive victim support strategy should be put in place, is particularly relevant post Savile, Smith et al, given that thousands of people are being contacted about allegations of historical child abuse by the Police. – These historical trawls are not instigated by the victims or witnesses, but rather by the Police in response to a changed climate where the hitherto impossible is now believed to be possible.

Victims and witnesses have lived their lives with the impact of abuse – some have been terribly harmed, most have buried the memories of what happened to them and others – but the effects are profound nonetheless. Amongst the consequences of this early life trauma are; an inability to trust anyone or form any form of close relationship – thus many victims are sentenced to a life without the most simple but critical thing – emotional intimacy. Family life is made very difficult, and it is no wonder that so many victims are single. Moreover, it is likely that they will have issues with certain categories of people – such as school teachers, the police, male or female authority figures and the like (– this is not helpful when re-contacted by these people later in life!) Naturally this is also going to blight their career prospects somewhat – and their reactions to some situations can be seen as extreme – demonstrating the full range of “flight or fight” responses, but also the unusual reaction of paralysis, learned through an inability to stop the abuse they endured in their early years. It is also likely that victims will not fully integrate with those around them, tending to operate on the fringes. Many, many victims will use alcohol or drugs as a means of blanking what has happened to them, others may become workaholics or engage in extreme risk-taking activities. Personal identity may be a major issue if their trauma did not allow them the scope to truly find out who they are. It is true that the prison population is massively over-represented by child abuse victims – and it is no wonder given the above! In short – the effects of childhood abuse are profound and lifelong – look around and you will see the signs everywhere.

Each of these victims carries with them a black box of horrors – marked “do not open – ever!” – it is the only way they can exist with the terrible events of the past – and exist in safety and peace – the most fundamental human right (according to the Human Rights Act.)

The impact of historical trawls is equally profound! The Police knocking at your door is daunting at the best of times – but when they want to open your box of horrors – it is a horrific place to find yourself. It returns victims to a place of total vulnerability in an instant – all safety is gone – the world is a cruel place once more! They are placed right back at the centre of abuse. It is for this reason that the need for a “comprehensive victim support strategy” was outlined in 2002.

It becomes especially important when the media become involved, and as there seems to be a veritable feast of “B-List” celebrities to feed on, many people are being caught up in show trials where their secrets are being made public through no action or desire of their own. There are even cases where names of alleged victims are being left on the internet for months on end – what prospect for emotional safety exists when this is allowed to happen?

But surely if society did not help these people at the time of their abuse, it would help them now?

Anyone who has been stopped by the Police for speeding, or caught doing something at school, who doesn’t know what is going to happen to them, can understand the feeling of dread that lasts for a few minutes – the fight or flight response where your body equips you to run or fight. If you can’t do either it turns to a feeling of dread. Sadly, this feeling does not go away for Victims of Child Abuse, when it is brought up years later – they are left with permanent fear, paranoia and above all dread. This state lasts for months even years -they are abused all over again!

Perhaps they will become known as someone abused as a child. Perhaps they have to tell family members before they find out some other way? Perhaps they have to tell the people they work with? Perhaps the have to disengage with groups of people for fear of how they might respond? Perhaps parents might think that their own children are at risk from someone who has been abused? It is certain that it will create a shift in how they are perceived – but how?

And…..all the time, for the victim, their safety has gone, and there is a need to put their lives back together again, but with the contents of their “black box of horrors” now very public!

Surely – if society didn’t help them when the abuse happened – then it would now – particularly given the 2002 findings.

The reality is very different! Whilst the Government make grand statements about stopping abuse and bringing the perpetrators to justice – the comprehensive victim support strategy involves nothing more than handing a Victim Referral Leaflet to the person who’s life has been turned upside down again. – No More – No Less – a leaflet with some phone numbers of voluntary agencies.

For those that then get interviewed, and charges raised, the deep dark mystery of the Crown Prosecution Service kicks in – “protecting public interest”, and keeping victims in the dark. Imagine that someone is charged with “intent to commit buggery with persons unknown” after 30 plus years, against you! They attend court, twice in relation to these charges and others, and then at the eleventh hour the charges are dropped, not because of insufficient evidence, but to simplify the conviction – and with no plausible explanation to the victim! Can anyone comprehend how a “Justice” system can do this to a vulnerable human being? He has been sought out, and put through hell…….again…….and what for? Is this part of a comprehensive victim support strategy?

Many people will tell you that many people are doing many things – there are reviews after reviews after reviews – but the reality is quite clear in relation to Victim Support – it is not the job of the Police, nor the CPS, nor even the Criminal Justice System to take care of victims – it is up to the voluntary sector – who quite simply do not have the funds to do this job properly.

A document prepared by the London Assembly, Mayors Office of Policing & Crime, called Duty of care – Improving support for victims of crime , published in January 2013 makes this clear. 

http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/13-01-23-victim-care-final-report-NON-Embargoed.pdf

Taken from the Appendix

The Police

The police’s role involves: dealing with the report of the crime; identifying vulnerable or intimidated victims; ensuring the victim has access to information about local support services; gathering evidence; and providing follow-up information to the victim about the progress of the case.

CPS and Joint Witness Care Units

The police work with the Crown Prosecution Service in Joint Witness Care Units. These units aim to provide the main point of contact for victims and witnesses, from the point where a defendant is charged through to the conclusion of a case. The CPS also has additional responsibilities about informing victims if a decision is made to drop or substantially alter charges.

Court Service

The Court Service has a role in ensuring victims’ visits to court are as straightforward and positive as possible. They must ensure that victims are directed to a separate waiting area and seat in the courtroom away from the defendant’s family and friends, and that special measures are in place if requested.

Probation Service

The Probation Service has a duty to inform and consult victims of serious sexual or violent offences where the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more in custody, about the timescale for the offender’s release, and the conditions of their release.

Third sector agencies

Third sector organisations provide a range of practical help and support for victims throughout their journey through the criminal justice system. These roles include: provision of refuge places, counselling, help with benefits, and help in making homes safe. Some agencies provide advocacy services to support victims on their journey through the criminal justice system.

Thus it can be seen that the role of support for Victims (ie counselling) is left entirely to the voluntary sector. This is quite interesting, given that the CPS have recently issued new guidelines in relation to Child Abuse cases. Whilst the guidelines have taken positive steps in relation to “de-bunking myths” about abuse, they have also taken a massive step backwards in terms of support for Victims. No longer does the CPS have any role in ensuring that the victim has any support whatsoever, other than if it would help support a prosecution. However, the guidelines do refer to Pre-Trial therapy for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. They make it clear that the CPS should not prevent this!! A legacy of the old CPS guidelines, is that it identifies that victims and witnesses might need therapy, in which case A Full Assessment of Needs should be carried out, by a properly qualified person – and this would be the start point for any form of treatment by any doctor. However, who is this to be carried out by? Where is the funding for this? Do voluntary organisations have the budget, remit, or resources to provide this? Or is this simply wishful thinking?

So, who has the role of organising an assessment of needs? – it would appear that this is the role of the victim, along with securing the funding for it, and establishing the referral pathways to enable it to happen – at a time when they are probably suffering like never before – a comprehensive victim support strategy indeed!!!

There is no help for victims, the Criminal Justice System does not serve them well. Instead it serves its political masters and the goals of the privileged. Shame on those who have not put a comprehensive victim support strategy in place. The members of the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee were:

Mr Chris Mullin MP (Labour, Sunderland South) (Chairman)
Mr David Cameron MP (Conservative, Witney)
Mrs Janet Dean MP (Labour, Burton)
Mr Humfrey Malins MP (Conservative, Woking)
Bridget Prentice MP (Labour, Lewisham East)
Mr Gwyn Prosser MP (Labour, Dover)
Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat, Colchester)
Mr Marsha Singh MP (Labour, Bradford West)
Angela Watkinson MP (Conservative, Upminster)
Mr Tom Watson MP (Labour, West Bromwich East)
David Winnick MP (Labour, Walsall North)

The measure of a society is how it deals with its’ most vulnerable. David Cameron is standing by, watching people suffer terribly, whilst “grandstanding” about child pornography – Why?

If we do not provide proper support to the Victims, we are by default providing support to the perpetrators of such terrible crimes.

The cost of Child Abuse to the UK economy is estimated at between £20-40 billion per annum! 

Victims are being let down……..by everyone around them…….and then again by the Criminal Justice System.

Children are being fucked by people in positions of power – then being handed a piece of paper……….This is neither right nor just!

Where is the “Comprehensive Victim Support Strategy?”

So…..Who Helps Victims??? London Assembly View

http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/13-01-23-victim-care-final-report-NON-Embargoed.pdf

The police
The police’s role involves: dealing with the report of the crime;
identifying vulnerable or intimidated victims; ensuring the victim has
access to information about local support services; gathering evidence;
and providing follow-up information to the victim about the progress of
the case.
CPS and Joint Witness Care Units
The police work with the Crown Prosecution Service in Joint Witness
Care Units. These units aim to provide the main point of contact for
victims and witnesses, from the point where a defendant is charged
through to the conclusion of a case.
The CPS also has additional responsibilities about informing victims if a
decision is made to drop or substantially alter charges.

Court Service
The Court Service has a role in ensuring victims’ visits to court are as
straightforward and positive as possible. They must ensure that victims
are directed to a separate waiting area and seat in the courtroom away
from the defendant’s family and friends, and that special measures are in
place if requested.

Probation Service
The Probation Service has a duty to inform and consult victims of serious
sexual or violent offences where the offender is sentenced to 12 months
or more in custody, about the timescale for the offender’s release, and
the conditions of their release.

Third sector agencies
Third sector organisations provide a range of practical help and support
for victims throughout their journey through the criminal justice system.
These roles include: provision of refuge places, counselling, help with
benefits, and help in making homes safe. Some agencies provide
advocacy services to support victims on their journey through the
criminal justice system.

Secret Justice Versus Secret Pain???

In the wake of Stuart Hall, Savile and others, it is clear that there is a balance to be struck between protecting the innocent and falsely accused, and creating the opportunity for further witnesses and victims to come forward. The Government and ACPO have moved quickly to address this, with a huge shift in the practice of justice, to prevent the naming of those arrested except in exceptional circumstances presumably based on an understanding the damage that may be caused to the lives of high profile figures if falsely accused, but with no regard to the impact on victims, and in the face of history which tells us that paedophiles and others lie! This move has been made quickly, despite serious concerns over the balance required to maintain the rights of victims and accused alike. The decision over naming of those arrested appears to now rest with the Police, though one must question what control their political masters may have over this. It is clear, however, that both have moved quickly and decisively to address the issue – but what have they done to help the victims? Is the pain caused to high profile figures more important than the on-going pain of the victims? Further to this, any enquiry has the potential to cause Secondary Wounding to victims.

Secondary Wounding is caused in people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which most child abuse victims are to some degree or other) and is described as “often more painful and devastating than the original traumatic event.” It is life changing, and takes victims to a place of emotional vulnerability, beyond the time that they were abused, and adds to it the feeling of injustice if they are not provided with the support they desperately need in desperate times. The “denial of assistance” is widely recognised as one of the key triggers for Secondary Wounding.

Armed with this knowledge, a civilised society would ensure that proper support was put in place to support victims, but sadly this is not the case. Whilst the “establishment” has moved quickly to protect the accused, it has failed completely to put in place a support strategy for victims and witnesses, who have clearly been damaged in earlier life.

Let me explain my experience:-

Four months ago the Police knocked on my door, wanting to question me about an enquiry into historical child sexual abuse. This goes back over thirty years, and my life had moved on, to a point where I could play an active role in society, and live safely without fear of my past coming back to haunt me – or so I thought! I was given a Support Agency Referral Leaflet, and asked if I was prepared to give a statement or interview in the next few days. I told them that I would think about it, but that I was minded to “do the right thing, and help if I could.”

Shocked, I went on the internet to find out what I could, and imagine my horror to find my name on a list of boys “Recruited to be abused!” I had been “outed” and my safe world was about to fall apart – but I was not prepared for how quickly and how suddenly! I feared for my life, feared for press at my door, and knew my life was going to change – but had no idea how! I knew that “bad things” were going to happen to me, but had no idea what, or where they would come from! I needed help!! The emotional impact started to kick in – I was numb, angry, hurt and desperate – but surely help would be available to get me through this – I was doing the “right thing” after all!

I am fortunate enough to be articulate and able to express my thoughts. I knew there were others who were more harmed by their experiences than me, and I had them in mind whilst I sought help. Like many other victims, I had isolated myself from others, to minimise the impact of trauma in later life – but now I really needed support! When was this going to be in the media? When was my name going to be made public? Oh my God – I was probably going to have to go to Court! What on earth could I do?

I had not spoken out about my childhood experiences for over thirty years, so starting now was going to be very hard, but I had to – I knew I needed help – so eventually I started the process of seeking help. To cut a long story short, it became clear that getting the help I needed was going to be difficult, and it was going to take time, but the emotional impact was starting to kick in….and my name was still public! I needed to tell my mother, before she read about it in the papers, or on the internet…or saw it on the news….but when was that going to be? I was so alone, hurting, isolated, needing help…..and my world was getting darker….I tried blanking it out in whatever ways I could – but there was no peace, no sleep, no light……..and……no help! What on earth was wrong with me???

After two weeks of total isolation, I spoke to support agencies, and spoke for the first time of what had happened to me, and they then referred me on to another agency – I couldn’t believe it – I had to do it all over again!!! – Hell no! Meanwhile, the feeling of injustice was growing – how could I be left in this position –why did I feel so awful? What was going on? I tried contacting MP’s, met with one, highlighted the need to for some joined up thinking, and pointed out to him that a Home Affairs Select Committee in 2002 into Historical Child Abuse Investigations had made some recommendations including “complainants should be offered appropriate victim support services, such as counselling, from an early stage of their involvement in the investigation.”

Hellelujah! It was just an oversight, pointing it out would surely put it right!

Wrong! Despite highlighting this to the Police and MP’s alike, I was informed that “Support offered meets nationally agreed standards” – by my MP, quoting the Head of CEOP, who also said “that in his opinion, the newspapers would not find me, because my name was significantly mis-spelled” on the internet. I questioned both of these points with my MP, and highlighted that we might not be doing everything right, and perhaps there was an opportunity to gain some learning from the situation given that more and more similar cases were likely to be forthcoming. Alas, my words fell on deaf ears, nothing happened.

It was time to put some pressure on. Two members of that Select Committee included Tom Watson MP, and David Cameron MP, who had signed up to the findings! Exaro News wrote to number 10 to get the PM’s response, and a standard political fudge took place – “we are devoting 10 million pounds over 3 years for rape crisis centres!” This response came despite the fact that funding is being cut to charity organisations supporting the abused, with a massive increase in demand post Savile, Cyril Smith, Stuart Hall, ……………insert future names here!!!!

Hang on just a minute! – Secondary Wounding is caused by “denial of support” which the victim might feel entitled to! So…despite a Select Committee’s findings, no co-ordinated victim support was put in place.

Bastards – you might as well have abused me yourselves!!!

Four months on, I have been diagnosed with severe depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I am struggling to keep my life together. The simplest of tasks are incredibly difficult, and keeping a business and house going are almost impossible – and I am still alone with no support. The Sun Newspaper knocked at my door last week, and my mother is showing signs of depression too – I cannot even face her – it is too painful. My Doctor is concerned that I might “do something stupid” – but I have a fight on my hands!

It is an important time, and many lives have been blighted by evil people. The fight for justice and support has just started for me, but I worry for others – for no other reason than I know how resilient I am. Sadly others have suffered far more than me and the impact on them must surely be greater? How many more suicides are needed? Is Secondary Wounding a criminal offence – perhaps it should be? It is truly a shameful situation – like a “witch-trial,” but where no matter what – the VICTIMS are going to drown! You don’t have to be a genius to work out who is at the opposite end of that see-saw!

Secret Justice versus Secret Pain? Well, the privileged can “buy” their way out of most things, and can probably afford to get some support if they truly need it – but what of those they have abused and damaged along the way??? Have the privileged carried this burden with them all of their lives? Are they being abused all over again? Who is the “establishment” rushing to support? You decide………