Guidance issued on rape claim retractions

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The Independent Online

Victims of rape or domestic violence who retract truthful allegations out of fear are less likely to be prosecuted under new guidance issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Keir Starmer QC said he wanted to protect victims who retract a truthful allegation as a result of pressure or fear of violence, while prosecuting those who make false claims against innocent people.

The new guidance comes after recent court rulings exposed failings in the system that had eroded public trust.

In one recent case, a 28-year-old mother was freed by the Court of Appeal from an eight-month jail term for "falsely retracting" rape allegations against her husband.

After the case Lord Judge said there should have been a "broad measure of compassion" for a woman who had been "victimised".

"This is an extreme case and we hope that it will be very exceptional for cases of this kind to be prosecuted to conviction in the Crown Court," he said.

Launching a consultation on the interim guidance, Mr Starmer said: "These are very difficult cases which need to be handled carefully and sensitively.

"Our interim guidance aims to protect individuals who retract a truthful allegation as a result of pressure or fear of violence, while taking a firm approach to those who make a malicious allegation against an innocent person."

The new rules mean that if a victim no longer wants to support the prosecution, but maintains that the allegation is true, it is unlikely that that alone will lead to a charge of perverting the course of justice.

Additional evidence showing that the original allegation was false will be needed.

Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said: "Rape and domestic violence are seriously under-reported crimes where victims can sometimes be intimidated into retracting true allegations.

"The consultation is a really welcome move demonstrating that the Crown Prosecution Service is taking the issue seriously.

"We must be careful not to create any new or bigger obstacles, either directly or indirectly, that stop victims of rape and domestic violence from coming forward and reporting."