“Education, too?”: tips for investigating sexual allegations in schools and higher education settings
Last week Sir James Munby called for the CPS to review its charging policy for children to divert them away from the criminal courts. Speaking at a lecture held by the Howard League for Penal Reform he suggested that the family courts could be provided with an enhanced jurisdiction to enable them to deal with some of the criminal cases currently dealt with by the Youth Court (the Youth Court currently deals with criminal cases involving young people aged 10 to 17. Cases involving more serious offences or involving an adult co-defendant will generally be dealt with in the Crown Court instead).
As I waved my son off to uni this week, I tried to give him some motherly legal advice (although as it comes from me, I fear he may well ignore it). The advice is drawn from my years of representing other mothers’ sons who have been accused of rape or other sexual crimes on campus. Because I know that my son generally cannot remember more than a nugget of information at a time, I kept it brief:
On 8 September the House of Lords will debate whether the age of criminal responsibility should be raised. This proposed reform is introduced in a Private Members Bill introduced by Lord Dholakia.
The press widely reported on Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders comments in an interview to the Evening Standard (8 August) relating to prosecuting rape cases. Headlines of “Prosecutors told to dig into accused rapist’s past” and “Alleged rapist past put on trial” picked up on comments attributed to Saunders in the Standard such as: “we are looking at how to prosecute certain types of cases, the more difficult ones. They tend to involve drugs or drink and people who know each other”. She apparently developed this by saying, “Some of it will be if you have already been in a relationship, understanding the dynamics of coercive and controlling behaviour and presenting cases in a way that doesn’t just look at the individual incident”.
Sexting as a phenomenon, has shown no sign of disappearing since we first wrote about the criminal ramifications a few years ago. Recent freedom of information requests by BBC Newcastle revealed there have been more than 4,000 cases since 2013 where children have taken explicit pictures of themselves and sent them to others including a 10-year old boy who received a caution for sending a photograph of himself to an 11 year old. Greater Manchester Police recorded the highest number of incidents with 695 cases being considered including four children aged just seven years old. It is important to note in passing, that the age of criminal responsibility is 10.
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