The north-west area of the Crown Prosecution Service makes a strong contribution to the overall success of the service. The number and proportion of cases discontinued has been reduced to below the national average and conviction rates in the magistrates and Crown courts are 98.5 per cent. and 91.6 per cent. respectively.
What are the Law Officers doing to increase the number of convictions of child sex offenders, in view of the low conviction rates, which are currently estimated at below 5 per cent., and mounting public concern about scandals in child care homes in the north-west?
The law has been changed a number of times in recent years. Normally, a child complainant in such a case will make the original complaint to a social worker, and it will be recorded on video tape. At the hearing, that video tape will stand as the child's evidence-in-chief and cross-examination will be by means of a live video link, with the child in a separate room. The methods that we now adopt in the courts to try to get at the truth in paedophile cases are a great advance on the methods that were in use 10 or 15 years ago.