UK

Barrister Blasted For Calling Child Abuse Victim 'Predatory'

07/08/2013 07:09 BST | Updated 07/08/2013 10:05 BST
PA

A lawyer has been condemned for telling a court that an abused 13-year-old girl was "predatory" and "sexually experienced".

Paedophile Neil Wilson, 41, walked free from court despite admitting he engaged in sexual activity with the girl at his home.

He was given an eight-month suspended prison sentence after prosecutor Robert Colover reportedly told the hearing at London's Snaresbrook Crown Court yesterday: "The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced."

Judge Nigel Peters said he took into account that the girl looked and behaved older than she was when he decided Wilson's punishment.

But the sentence could be reviewed after the Attorney General agreed to examine the case.

Children's charity Barnardo's insists that young people cannot consent to being abused, while the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) described Mr Colover's comments as "inappropriate".

Alison Worsley, deputy director of strategy at Barnardo's, said: "Children can never truly consent to their own abuse. It is plain wrong to imply in any way that the experiences of sexually exploited children are something they bring on themselves.

"It is difficult to imagine the torment experienced by the vulnerable victims of crimes such as these. Many turn in on themselves and have feelings of shame and even self-loathing on top of the psychological scars inflicted by the abuser.

"It takes immense bravery for these young people to relive their ordeal in a court of law and we must not forget that it is the abuser who is guilty and not the victim."

A CPS spokesman said: "The language used by prosecution counsel was inappropriate. The transgressor in this case was the defendant and he bears responsibility for his criminal acts."

Police also found images of child abuse and bestiality at Wilson's home in Romford, Essex.

Wilson, now living in York, admitted two counts of making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity with a child.

A statement from the Attorney General's Office read: "The case has been drawn to the attention of this office as a possibly unduly lenient sentence.

"This means it'll be considered by a law officer (the Attorney or Solicitor General) who will decide whether it should be referred to the Court of Appeal under the Unduly Lenient Sentence (ULS) scheme.

"The law officers have 28 days to make their considerations, this office will ask the CPS for more information on the case (trial papers, files etc) and the decision will be announced once all the information has been considered."

Over 4,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the CPS to investigate the language used by Mr Colover.

The petition, which was started by a woman named Jo who described herself as a "survivor of childhood sexual abuse", stated: "It's unacceptable that the Crown Prosecutor - the person who this young girl was relying on to help get her justice - used this kind of language in court.

"It's a sad fact that this kind of attitude is commonplace within society and the legal establishment. We need to make a stand and send a clear message: It's never the child's fault."