Northumbria PCC backs call for specialist abuse judges

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has backed plans for specialist judges for child abuse cases

Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird
Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird

Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner has backed plans for specialist judges to oversee complex child abuse cases.

Vera Baird also called for an inquiry into setting up specific courts to deal with child and sexual abuse.

Ms Baird’s calls comes after the Crown Prosecution Service criticised a barrister acting on its behalf for describing a 13-year-old sex abuse victim in court as “predatory” and “sexually experienced”.

The CPS said his language had been “inappropriate”. Ms Baird, a former barrister and QC, described the words used as “crass”.

She said: “It is many years since the CPS brought in sexual offence training and my understanding was that all barristers had to go through this training and have a least a basic understanding of vulnerability or they could not prosecute.

“That the judge echoed what he said calls for a serious clear out of such people from ever going near a sex case again.

“The Lord Chief Justice is right to say that there must be more training, but there has been plenty of training.

“Do these two men not see how they will discourage people from coming forward to complain of sexual predators by pinning labels on a 13 year old child who has had the courage to give evidence?” Plans have been announced for a select pool of judges with specialist training to be created to handle complex child abuse cases, amid concerns at the way some child witnesses are treated in court by lawyers.

But proposals for specialist courts to deal with cases of child abuse and sexual abuse have been rejected by the Lord Chief Justice over concerns they will lead to increased costs and waiting times.

Ms Baird commented: “While I respect The Lord Chief Justice, it is not just the judiciary who have a say in this and his reasons for not support- ing specialist courts focus on the logistics rather than the principle of the plans.

“The number of victims who have been re-victimised by the courts, despite years of campaigning by women and children’s charities, have shown it is time to take on what the justice select committee recently recommend.”

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