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CPS apology: changes have been made

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 September 2010

A day after apologising over the mishandling of a sexual assault case, the Crown Prosecution Service tells Channel 4 News that changes have been made to the system.

Alison Saunders, Crown Prosecution Service (credit: Reuters)

Channel 4 News reported on Monday how the victim - for legal reasons named only as Josephine - was due to give evidence in court against a man she claimed had attacked her at a party in 2006.

She had been told that she could do so behind screens, to protect her identity, but no screens were provided and she had to give evidence in open court, which she said had left her "petrified".

The case was thrown out after she inadvertently mentioned that the man had previously been in prison and she was accused of prejudicing her own case.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer yesterday issued a personal apology to Josephione over the way she had been treated.

In a written statement of apology, Alison Saunders the Chief Crown Prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) pledged to review the systems in place and make changes so such mistakes would not be made again.

Click here to read the CPS's letter of apology

The CPS has since issued a statement to Channel 4 News clarifying the changes that have been made to the system in light of Josephine's case.

Firstly it confirmed that the lawyer who oversaw the case had accepted failing in her handling of it. Other cases she has handled have been examined and it has been concluded that this was a one off. However she is now being monitored when dealing with sexual assault cases and is undergoing refresher training. But she has not been removed as previous reports suggested.

Secondly the CPS says it has implemented "better management control and monitoring"; all rape and sexual offence are now being listed and managers at all levels review the cases to ensure that all are progressed appropriately.

The CPS's legal guidance to prosecutors headed “Supplying witnesses with copies of their statements” has also been amended, as a result of this case in order to prevent this happening in future.

It says that, on occasion, witness statements will include material which, if referred to by the witness whilst giving evidence, may prejudice a fair trial (for instance, alleged offences or allegations that are not the subject of the ongoing proceedings). It says that if this is the case, then the witness should clearly be advised by the prosecutor at court – before they give their evidence - on which parts of their statement should not be alluded to and the reasons for this.

Read Josephine's story in full here

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