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Keir Starmer: lighting the path

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publications_englishCrown Prosecution Service figures show conviction rates for domestic abuse and rape at all-time high.

Keir Starmer, who, as Director of Public Prosecutions, has done a remarkable job in moulding the CPS into a more professional and effective service, announced this week and will be stepping down from the role.

He will not be applying for an extension to his contract in October 2013.

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve,  praised him as “one of the most successful directors of recent years” who has brought a “sound instinct and humanity” to the role.

Following his appointment as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) five years ago, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) became the first government department to develop an integrated strategy for tackling violence against women and girls.

Conviction rates for rape and domestic violence are currently at an all-time high.

In 2007/2008 when the conviction rate was recorded as 58 per cent; the rate of conviction for rape and domestic abuse now stands at 63 per cent.

The conviction rate for domestic violence has also increased; in 2005/2006 the conviction rate stood at 60 per cent and it now stands at 74 per cent after a further one per cent increase this year.

While it is clear there is still a lot of work to be done about violence against women and girls (VAWG), Keir Starmer will certainly leave a constructive legacy, a vast improvement in the fight against domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape.

Starmer said: “For victims of these appalling crimes, the message is clear: you can have confidence that the criminal justice system is getting better and better at prosecuting these offences and if your case is charged there is now a very strong chance that your attacker will be convicted.

“Offenders too should be warned.”

His departure was announced shortly after he announced the introduction of a dedicated rape and serious sexual offence (RASSO) unit established in every CPS Area.

Referring to this unit, Starmer said: “I hope this will help to sustain and improve our performance in these types of cases.

“In addition, in November last year we also produced, in partnership with the Association of Chief Police Officers, a new domestic violence checklist for police officers and prosecutors to help build the best possible prosecution case and ensure victims get the service they deserve.

“Recent developments in the VAWG strategy include the implementation of a CPS action plan to improve prosecution of cases.”

And his time in office has seen an improvement in the way violence against women and girls has been perceived and the way such cases are handled by both the police and the CPS.

Starmer also implemented an action plan for the CPS to use to improve prosecution of cases involving female genital mutilation, and he is currently informing prosecutors on new guidance for the issues of child sexual abuse.

Some have criticised Starmer’s relevance to the role of DPP because of his background in Human Rights law rather than criminal prosecutions, and there are now calls for Starmer’s replacement to be an experienced prosecutor.

But with conviction rates at this all time high, Starmer has proved that experience in defence work really does not put you at any kind of disadvantage.

And we can really appreciate that someone has – at long last – been getting to grips with these issues.

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