The barrister who called a 13-year-old abuse victim sexually "predatory" in court will not be used in similar cases pending an investigation, it has been announced today.
Separately, the Office for Judicial Complaints said it would be considering complaints against the judge in the case, who appeared to accept the prosecutor’s comments when sparing the girl’s 41-year-old abuser jail.
The action follows a campaign by an equalities group – first reported by The Independent – against “victim blaming” after details of the case emerged earlier this week.
The sexual-abuse survivor who started the petition on the Change.org campaigning website, which by last night had received the backing of nearly 30,000 people, said: “This is incredible news. When I heard what this man had said I was sure he would end up getting away with it – but 30,000 people sent a huge message that we will not stand for blaming the victims of sexual abuse for what has happened to them.”
The woman, Jo, added: “This has been a real victory in the fight against victim blaming which results in so many sexual-abuse cases going unreported and unpunished. I hope it’s the start of a real step change in how the legal establishment deals with these kinds of cases. Now I hope that the CPS agrees to meet with victims groups so we can work together to stop this happening again.”
In a statement, the Crown Prosecution Service said that Robert Colover, QC, the prosecutor in the case at Snaresbrook Crown Court should not have used the word “predatory” and confirmed that he would be investigated by Director of Public Prosecution Keir Starmer. The statement added that the use of the word is “of real concern to the CPS”. It said: “It is not consistent with the work that we have undertaken alongside the judiciary and others in the past year to improve attitudes towards victims of abuse. We expect all of our prosecutors, including self-employed barristers who act on our behalf, to follow our guidance in these very difficult cases.
“The DPP will be undertaking a review of this case to determine what happened and to decide what action needs to be taken. We are now considering the involvement of this barrister in sexual-offence prosecutions and have advised his chambers that we will not instruct him in any ongoing or future cases involving sexual offences in the meantime.”
The Office for Judicial Complaints said it has “received a number of complaints about the remarks made by HHJ Peters, QC, during the sentencing of a defendant at Snaresbrook Crown Court on 5 August 2013. The complaints will be considered in accordance with the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedure) Regulations 2006 (as amended)”.
Labour MP Emily Thornberry, shadow Attorney General, said: “It is appalling that, after the scandals of Jimmy Savile and Rochdale, these awful Lolita prejudices are still being served up in court, and by the prosecution of all people.”
Ms Thornberry has asked the barristers’ regulator, the Bar Standards Board, to examine whether Mr Colover may have violated its code of conduct.