Labour has pledged to introduce a new ‘victims’ law’ to prevent a repeat of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.
A speech by Sadiq Khan MP, shadow justice secretary, at today’s Labour party conference in Manchester said the law would be introduced if the party is elected back into power next year.
Mr Khan said the law was needed following the scandal in both Rotherham and similar problems in Rochdale.
He said: “We need to recognise the rights of people who’ve been neglected for too long – victims.
“Rotherham and Rochdale are seared into the public’s conscience.
“Hundreds of girls – some as young as 12 – abducted, raped and trafficked. Yet disbelieved or ignored by the police and the authorities.
“This must never be repeated. Labour will act.
“We will bring in the country’s first ever victims’ law.
“We’ll do all we can to stop people becoming victims in the first place. Punishing criminals but reforming them too.”
It follows heavy criticism for Labour-run Rotherham Council in the wake of the publication of the explosive Jay report, which said there had been at least 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013.
Labour said last December the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, would advise the party on the new law.
At the time, the party said the new legislation would be likely to include a new right to be kept fully informed of progress in the investigation of crimes and new protections for vulnerable victims facing cross-examination.
The Government announced earlier this month it also intends to introduce similar legislation.
Justice cecretary Chris Grayling said legal changes would require advocates to undergo specialist training before taking part in sexual abuse or rape trials, to make going to court easier and less distressing for victims.
He said: “Our criminal justice system can be daunting, and victims, especially the most vulnerable, can find it traumatic and difficult to know where to turn to for advice and support.”