keirstarmerFinal guidance on the prosecution of cases involving child sexual abuse in England and Wales has been published in what is being called "the biggest shift in attitude across the criminal justice system for a generation".

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said the new guidelines will ensure that prosecutors are told to focus on the credibility of allegations, not on whether victims make good witnesses.

Victims have previously been disbelieved or discouraged, he said, but the new guidelines represented a move towards a "more sophisticated knowledge of psychology".

Plagued by myths about victim's behaviour
Mr Starmer said: "For too long, child sexual abuse cases have been plagued by myths about how 'real' victims behave which simply do not withstand scrutiny.

"The days of the model victim are over. From now on these cases will be investigated and prosecuted differently, whatever the vulnerabilities of the victim."

The DPP added that because the guidelines were the result of discussions with judges, the police, experts, victims' representatives and the government, they would "stand the test of time".

The publishing of the final guidelines follows a three-month public consultation and takes immediate effect. The information for joint protocol will come into force in England and Wales on 1 January 2014.

Positive difference for child abuse prosecutions
It includes a list of "myths and stereotypes" about behaviour previously thought to negatively impact the credibility of young victims so the use of such preconceptions can be challenged in court by prosecutors.

The list includes inconsistencies in what the victim remembers and whether they were drunk or wearing revealing clothes.

A joint protocol for information sharing in child sexual abuse cases has also been published alongside the guidelines, in which police and prosecutors are expected to share information with social services, schools and family courts.

The NSPCC's Alan Wardle said the changes "will start to make a positive difference for child sex abuse prosecutions which in the past have been dogged by difficulties".