10:34, March 26 391 0 theguardian.com

2017-03-26 10:34:03
DPP accuses judge of 'victim-blaming' in sex assault cases

The head of the Crown Prosecution Service has launched a public attack on a sitting judge, accusing him of “victim-blaming” and peddling “discredited rape myths”.

Alison Saunders, the director of public prosecutions, said it was “disappointing” that Judge Philip Shorrock had expressed views that “lean in favour of [...] ‘victim blaming’ culture”, after he wrote to the Telegraph that most trials led to the alleged rapist being “unsurprisingly” acquitted because both parties had been drinking or taking drugs, and there was no independent proof of rape.

The DPP said: “It is always disappointing to hear views expressed that lean in favour of the ‘victim blaming’ culture that allowed sexual predators to offend with assumed impunity in days gone by.

“It is our job, as prosecutors, to make objective charging decisions based on the evidence, rather than the discredited rape myths that skewed the system against victims.”

Shorrock was writing in response to a Daily Telegraph column by Allison Pearson which accused Saunders and Liz Truss, the justice secretary, of forming a ‘militant sisterhood’ because of plans to spare alleged rape victims from facing live cross-examination in court.

The DPP responded saying the CPS had not changed the law on consent and the CPS had to charge people when there was a realistic prospect of conviction.

But in a break with protocol, Judge Shorrock explicitly criticised the DPP, saying that in most cases the complainant and the defendant knew each other.

“One or both has or have been drinking and or taking drugs before the events giving rise to the complaint taking place,” he wrote. “If my experience is any guide, I fear that Allison Pearson’s analysis is closer to the mark than that of Alison Saunders.”

The dispute comes after retiring judge Lindsey Kushner was accused of victim-blaming after she told women they were at greater risk of being raped if they got drunk.

During her sentencing of a rapist in Manchester, Lindsey Kushner said there was “absolutely no excuse” for sex attacks, but that men gravitated towards vulnerable women.

In her final case before retiring, the judge said women were entitled to “drink themselves into the ground”, but their disinhibited behaviour could put them in danger and they were less likely to be believed than a sober victim.

But the Northumbria police and crime commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, said the comments would stop victims coming forward.

The former solicitor-general told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “When somebody is raped they feel guilt and shame and they find it very hard to report it.

“If a judge has just said to them ‘well, if you drank you are more likely to get raped, we are not likely to believe you and you have been disinhibited so you’ve rather brought it on yourself’, then that guilt is just going to get worse.”