Top Prosecutor hints that more celebrities may be quizzed over child abuse
‘It could be just the tip of the iceberg’: Top prosecutor hints more celebrities could be quizzed over child abuse
Nazir Afzal, head of CPS in North West, says ‘there will be more cases’
He supervised the case against It’s a Knockout presenter Stuart Hall
Dismissed witch hunt claims saying ‘children have always been children’
By STEVE ROBSON
PUBLISHED: 10:01, 5 July 2013 | UPDATED: 11:46, 5 July 2013
More celebrities could be arrested and charged with historic sex abuse offences, one of Britain’s top prosecutors has hinted.
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, supervised the case against former It’s A Knockout presenter Stuart Hall, 83.
He has also recently approved the the charging of Coronation Street stars Bill Roache and Michael Le Vell, who both facing upcoming trials over alleged child abuse.
Le Vell, 48, denies 19 sex offences with a child while Roache, 81, denies child sex charges relating to five alleged victims in the 1960s.
But Mr Afzal acknowledged these cases could just be the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
He said: ‘I don’t know how big the iceberg is but what I do know is that in the last year I have dealt with more historical abuse cases than I have ever dealt with in my life.
‘I think that is true of us as an organisation nationally.
‘Yes there will be more cases and I have no qualms about it and neither am I ashamed of it.’
Mr Afzal, who also oversaw the landmark prosecution of the Rochdale sex gang, dismissed claims by critics that the pursuit of historic sex abuse cases has become a ‘witch hunt’.
Coronation Street actor Michael Le Vell is to on trial for alleged child sex abuse charges Coronation Street actor Bill Roache is charged with four counts of indecent assault on young girls
Charged: Coronation Street actors Michael Le Vell, left, and Bill Roache, right, are both set to go on trial over alleged child sex offences
He insisted such vile behaviour cannot simply be judged as being from ‘another time’.
He made reference to the recent Michael Brewer case – the former BBC choirmaster who was jailed for child sex offences. One of his victims, Frances Andrade, a 48 year-old mother-of-four, committed suicide during his high-profile trial.
Mr Afzal said: ‘Children are children and they always have been children.
‘It really came home to me and I hope it comes home to other people following Frances Andrade’s tragic death.
‘She lived with the abuse she suffered for 34 years and I know from speaking to her family how it impacted on her all her life.
‘Just because it happened all that time ago does not mean that we should not deliver justice.
‘The fact that they were not able to talk about it for years is our failure – not theirs.’
However, Mr Afzal acknowledged that historical sex cases are more difficult to prosecute because they often amount to ‘one person’s word against another’.
He said: ‘It’s more challenging but not impossible.
‘Recent cases have shown that when you deal with recent allegations of sexual abuse you would ordinarily expect physical evidence, medical, or forensic evidence you might even have witnesses or CCTV.
‘All of that is unusual in historical cases. What we do have is very clear accounts from complainants saying what happened to them several years ago.
‘That’s not enough for us, we have to ensure the defendant gets a fair trial – it’s a balancing exercise.
‘There are many occasions when people criticise us for taking a bit of time over it but ultimately we want to make sure that only the right cases are brought to court with the right charges.’
Referring specifically to the case of Stuart Hall, Mr Afzal added: ‘And then, as recent examples have shown, they can so strong and so compelling the defendant can plead guilty and that means it spares the victim from having to give evidence in the first place.’