A BARRISTER and judge are subject to separate inquiries after it emerged a 13-year-old sex attack victim was labelled “predatory” and “sexually experienced”.
Robert Colover made the comments as prosecutor in the case of paedophile Neil Wilson, 41 – who ultimately walked from court with an eight-month suspended sentence after admitting he had engaged in sexual activity with the girl at his home.
Judge Nigel Peters, QC, said he took into account that the girl looked and behaved older than she was when he decided Wilson’s punishment.
Mr Colover has been suspended from prosecuting sexual offence cases while his conduct is reviewed by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Judge Peters’ remarks are to be investigated by the Office for Judicial Complaints.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the CPS was “absolutely right” to label Mr Colover’s comments as inappropriate.
“It isn’t appropriate. We need a criminal justice system that stands up properly for victims,” he said.
Mr Colover, a self-employed barrister, told a hearing at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday: “The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced.”
Wilson now faces having his sentence reviewed, after Attorney General Dominic Grieve agreed to examine the case.
As well as receiving a number of complaints, from both individuals and an organisation, the CPS was confronted by a petition, with 30,000 signatures and counting, demanding an investigation into the language used by Mr Colover.
A CPS spokesman said Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer would review the case to determine what happened and to decide what action needed to be taken.
He said: “We are now considering the involvement of this barrister in sexual offence prosecutions and have advised his chambers that we will not instruct him in any ongoing or future cases involving sexual offences in the meantime.”
The CPS added: “The word predatory in this context should not have been used and is of real concern to the CPS.
“It is not consistent with the work we have undertaken alongside the judiciary and others in the past year to improve attitudes towards victims of abuse. We expect all of our prosecutors, including self-employed barristers who act on our behalf, to follow our guidance in these very difficult cases.”
Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s shadow attorney general, said: “It is appalling that after the scandals of Jimmy Savile and Rochdale, these awful Lolita prejudices are still being served up in court, and by the prosecution of all people.”
The Office for Judicial Complaints confirmed it had received complaints about the remarks made by Judge Peters and said they would be considered.
A petition started by the founder of EveryDay Victim Blaming, who is known only as Jo, calling on the DPP to look at Mr Colover’s remarks, has attracted almost 30,000 signatures.
Jo said: “When I heard what this man had said I was sure he would get away with it – but 30,000 people sent a huge message on change.org that we will not stand for blaming the victims of sexual abuse.”
She went on: “I hope it’s the start of a real step-change in how the legal establishment deals with these kinds of cases. Now I hope that the CPS agrees to meet with victims’ groups so we can work together to stop this happening again.”
Children’s charity Barnardo’s insists young people cannot consent to being abused.
Alison Worsley, deputy director of strategy at Barnardo’s, said: “It is plain wrong to imply that the experiences of sexually exploited children are something they bring on themselves.
“It takes immense bravery for these young people to relive their ordeal in a court of law and we must not forget it is the abuser who is guilty, not the victim.”
Javed Khan, chief executive of independent charity Victim Support, said: “Victims of sexual abuse should be praised for their bravery, not have their credibility called into question – least of all by the prosecution.”
Comments made in court revealing ‘out of touch’ attitudes have sparked criticism before
THE comments attributed to Judge Nigel Peters and Prosecutor Robert Colover are the latest in a list of remarks made in court criticised for being out of touch. Here are some comments in previous court cases which sparked criticism:
n September 2012 – Judge Peter Bowers was reprimanded by the Office for Judicial Complaints after sparing a burglar jail at Teesside Crown Court, saying carrying out break-ins required “a huge amount of courage”. Prime Minister David Cameron led criticism, saying burglars are “cowards”.
n June 1993 – Judge Ian Starforth Hill, describing the eight-year-old victim of an attempted rape, said he was led to believe “she was not entirely an angel herself”. Her attacker received two years’ probation for attempted unlawful intercourse at Winchester Crown Court.
n July 1991 – Mr Justice Alliott ignored the minimum recommended sentence of five years for rape because the victim was a “common prostitute and a whore”. He jailed the attacker for three years.
n April 1990 – Judge Raymond Dean told an Old Bailey rape trial: “As the gentlemen on the jury will understand, when a woman says no she doesn’t always mean it.”
In the same trial, he claimed: “Men can’t turn their emotions on and off like a tap like some women can.” The jury acquitted the property consultant of rape.
n December 1988 – Judge Sir Harold Cassel QC refused to jail an ex-policeman for indecently assaulting his 12-year-old stepdaughter, who had learning difficulties. He said the man was driven to assault the girl because his wife’s pregnancy had dimmed her sexual appetite, causing “considerable problems for a healthy young husband”.
Judge Cassel was strongly rebuked by Lord Mackay, the Lord Chancellor, and retired early on medical grounds.