Repealing the Human Rights Act would be “retrograde step” that would hurt the victims of crime and witnesses alike, the outgoing director of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has warned.
In an interview marking the end of his tenure at the CPS, Keir Starmer implicitly criticised the Home Secretary Theresa May, who has said repealing the Act will form part of the next Conservative manifesto.
Mr Starmer said the legislation had significant benefits across the criminal justice system. “The Human Rights Act is a really important constitutional document, it isn’t just a villain’s charter,” he said.
“It has been a real asset to victims and witnesses, and if you trace their rights, you will find them written in the Human Rights Act, so for me it will be a retrograde step to repeal or amend the Human Rights Act.
“I have been very clear on this. I don’t think it’s an Act that should be amended in any way.”
In the interview on the BBC Mr Starmer also suggested that many victims of sexual offences have been afraid of reporting them in the past because police had asked “the wrong questions” and used “crude tests” to question if victims would be believed.
“If you go into a police station and report a burglary the first question is not: ‘Are you telling the truth?’ If you are the victim of a sexual offence, very often in the past that has been the first question.” He said that, for the past two years, he had tried to “fundamentally shift where we are in these cases to make sure that the police and courts are with us”.
“The first thing you do is you change the tests,” he said.
“You make it clear that, if you come in to report this sort of offence, you are not going to be tested according to whether you’ve reported it straight away, whether you give a consistent account, whether you’ve ever yourself had drink or drugs etc.”
He said that if victims knew that “you will come in, give your account and then there’ll be a proper investigation”, it would give them more confidence to come forward.