A CAMPAIGNING mother whose daughter was brutally murdered on Christmas Day almost 14 years ago is claiming a major breakthrough in her long fight for changes to the British justice system.
Doreen Soulsby says she is “absolutely elated” and looking forward to changes in the courts’ handling of rape and murder cases following a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer.
The meeting – which also included Victims’ Commissioner Louise Casey and Hexham MP Guy Opperman – discussed Mrs Soulsby’s campaign to ensure that offences of rape are still prosecuted against people who plead guilty to murder.
Mrs Soulsby’s daughter, Joanne Tulip, 29, was raped and murdered on Christmas Day 1997 by farm labourer Steven Ling at his home in Stamfordham, Northumberland. She was stabbed about 60 times.
Ling was later jailed for at least 20 years after admitting the savage killing but, because he was not convicted of rape, he will not be on the sex offenders’ register when he is eventually released from prison.
Despite Ling admitting to police that he had “sexual intercourse without consent” with Joanne, and that he “wanted to kill himself because he had raped her”, the judge agreed with the defence that it would be an abuse of court process to allow the prosecution to pursue the rape charge.
Mrs Soulsby, who lives in Wall near Hexham, was incensed that Ling was not convicted of rape, and has been conducting a campaign for change in the way rape offences are allowed to be “left on the file” in murder cases.
At the meeting Mr Starmer agreed to change Crown Prosecution Service policy from simply informing murder victims’ families of decisions to leave rape charges on file, to consulting them. He said appropriate time would be allowed for such consultation.
Yesterday Mrs Soulsby said the pledge was an important step forward for the campaign goal of making the practice of leaving rape charges on file more transparent, giving victims and families a voice in the process.
She was joined at the meeting by a couple from Lancashire whose daughter was stabbed to death by her former partner.
Mrs Soulsby, who has a son Michael and three grandchildren, said: “We were absolutely elated after the meeting because until now there has been a big black hole with no glimmer of light. I am convinced Keir Starmer is going to change that. Because Steven Ling’s rape of Joanne didn’t go to trial he was not convicted in court and will not be on the sexual offenders’ register, which is absolutely ridiculous.
“The issue is not just the sentence these people get, it is the fact that if rape charges are left on file they are not convicted sex offenders. Keir Starmer wants to change CPS policy and genuinely wants our input during the process he is going to start working through.
“I want to thank him for meeting us all, and for his commitment to making the changes we are campaigning for. These are key issues to ensure that justice is done in some of the most horrific offences.”
Mr Opperman said: “We must always do all we can to ensure that justice is done. Doreen is very passionate about these issues, and as her local MP I am proud to support her.”
The process of leaving rape charges on file happens when the CPS has sufficient evidence to bring a successful rape prosecution but decides not to take the matter to trial.
It is neither a conviction nor an acquittal for rape, but simply leaves charges against the accused unprosecuted. It has been used by the CPS in a number of cases where rapists have murdered their victims.