This tweet misreports an interview with Keir Starmer

14 May 2020
What was claimed

Mr Starmer explains in a clip why child grooming gangs weren’t prosecuted.

Our verdict

This is incorrect. The clip is from an interview with Mr Starmer on changes to how police and prosecutors deal with victims of child sexual abuse, rather than a discussion of why specific gangs weren’t prosecuted.

A now-deleted tweet with a clip of Labour party leader Keir Starmer talking about prosecuting child sexual abuse has been shared across Twitter, including by several MPs. The text on the tweet argues that the clip shows Mr Starmer being dismissive towards victims of grooming. You can see another tweet containing the clip here

Several MPs have now deleted their tweets.

The clip removes the context from an interview with Mr Starmer.    

The clip comes from an interview with 5 News in 2013 when he was the Director of Public Prosecutions. The full interview can be watched here. The interview was regarding new guidelines, published at the time, around the handling of child sexual abuse cases. 

The tweets suggested that Mr Starmer had not prosecuted child grooming gangs at the time because children didn’t usually report the abuse straight away, because the children had been in trouble before, and because they had used drugs or alcohol.

Mr Starmer is not talking about this in the interview. He is addressing how previous guidelines around how prosecutors should deal with allegations of child sexual abuse took the wrong approach and how they are being reformed, rather than giving reasons why specific gangs weren’t prosecuted. 

The transcript of the interview can be read below. 

Interviewer: “Just how much of an acknowledgement is this that the methods you have been using up until now, just have been really in the wrong mindset and so misguided?

Keir Starmer: These guidelines are a recognition that the approach that has been taken in the past was the wrong approach. It was based on a number of assumptions which don’t withstand scrutiny, the guidelines change that, and they require the police and prosecutors to focus intensely on the allegation actually being made and not so much on the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that are invariably there in some of the victims that come forward.

I: Could you just expand a little on what you mean by the kind of things that were going wrong, just give us some obvious examples of how the previous guidelines weren’t really up to standard?

KS: The assumptions that were made included the assumption that a victim of child sexual abuse will swiftly report what happened to them to the police, will be able to give a coherent and consistent account first time, that they will not themselves have engaged in any offending or other behaviour, and that they will not have misused drugs or alcohol at any stage. Those assumptions do not withstand scrutiny, they’ve got to change, the guidelines make that clear, and so this is a clear break with the past. “

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