CPS Suspends Lawyer From Sex Abuse Cases

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Outcry As Girl Called 'Sex Predator' By Judge

A prosecutor reported to have called a teenage sex attack victim "predatory" has been suspended from working on other cases involving sexual offences.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had already called the comment about the 13-year-old girl apparently made during a court case in London "inappropriate".

Following an outcry from children's charities and campaigners, it has now started looking at prosecutor Robert Colover's overall involvement in sexual offence prosecutions.

The CPS, which has received several formal complaints, said he would not be instructed on any ongoing or future cases involving sexual offences while it investigates.

Neil Wilson, 41, was given an eight-month suspended sentence at Snaresbrook Crown Court in London on Monday after admitting sexual activity with a child.

Mr Colover reportedly told the court: "The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced."

Passing sentence, Judge Nigel Peters then said he had taken into account that the girl looked and behaved "a little bit older" than she was.

"The girl was predatory and was egging you on. That is no defence when dealing with children but I am prepared to impose a suspension," he said.

Wilson, now living in York, had watched the girl strip out of her school uniform at his home in Romford, Essex, before she performed a sex act on him.

Police also found images of child abuse and bestiality at his home.

He admitted two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child.

Judge Peters told him: "Allowing her to visit your home is something we have to clamp down on and in normal circumstances that would mean a significant term in prison."

The Office for Judicial Complaints has also received a number of complaints about his remarks and says they will be considered.

The Attorney General is already looking at the case and will decide if it should ask the Court of Appeal to consider whether the punishment was unduly lenient.

A petition started by the founder of EveryDay Victim Blaming, who is known only as Jo, calling for a review of the sentence has received 15,000 signatures. 

She wrote on the Change.org website: "I'm a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I could have been that 13-year-old girl who the judge and prosecutor described as 'predatory'.

"I have seen first-hand how this kind of victim-blaming prevents women from coming forward and protects men who commit these crimes."

Earlier, the CPS had admitted the language used by its prosecutor was "inappropriate".

A spokesman said: "The transgressor in this case was the defendant and he bears responsibility for his criminal acts."

David Cameron said the CPS was "absolutely right". "It isn't appropriate. We need a criminal justice system that stands up properly for victims," he said.

"The victims of crime should always be at the centre of our thinking and I am pleased the CPS has made that statement.

"I am also pleased that the Attorney General has said he is personally going to look into this case."

The NSPCC warned that the case was part of a wider pattern about how child sex abuse cases are treated in the courts.

Alan Wardle, head of corporate affairs, said: "It was quite clear in the case the predator was the man who was in the dock, not a 13-year-old child, and it is quite clear that a 13-year-old child cannot be complicit in her own abuse.

"Making sure that judges and barristers in all these cases are properly trained and understand the nature of child sexual abuse and how children are groomed in these sort of cases is important."

A spokesman for Barnardo's added: "It is plain wrong to imply in any way that the experiences of sexually exploited children are something they bring on themselves."

Victim Support's chief executive Javed Khan said: "Victims of sexual abuse should be praised for their bravery in coming forward, not censured and have their credibility called into question - least of all by the prosecution.

"It is traumatic enough for anyone who is brought to court to face their abuser, but particularly so when this is a young vulnerable person. It is completely unacceptable for victims to be blamed in any way for the abuse they have suffered."

Caroline Criado-Perez, who received rape threats following her calls for Jane Austen to be the face on the £10 bank note, called the judge's decision "completely appalling".

She told Sky News: "It's really worrying that we're in the 21st century and we're still suggesting victims can be complicit in their abuse which is basically what calling a 13-year-old child a sexually predator is.

"I don't think you can ever call a child a sexual predator because they are a child. They are below the age of consent. We have laws specifically because of this kind of thing so that you can't say a child is responsible for her abuse.

"This adds to the horror that has happened to her. She has been abused and now we are blaming her for it. It's just unconscionable."

The Attorney General said a decision on whether the case is referred to the Court of Appeal will be made within 28 days.