The lawyer who helped clear the former House of Commons deputy speaker Nigel Evans of a string of sexual offences has highlighted the need for greater assistance to prosecute rape and sexual assaults in the Jewish community.
Manchester-based solicitor Daniel Berke said he was surprised that only a handful of Jewish sexual offenders from across the community had been convicted in recent years, suggesting that victims were under pressure not to reports incidents.
He said: “It may well be that there is genuinely less instances of sexual abuse in the wider Jewish community, but having acted for criminal cases over a number of years I find it hard to accept that figures are so much significantly lower than average [sexual offence] reporting figures across the UK or indeed within Israel.
“It may be that society pressures or a stigma [Jewish] victims may suffer about reporting matters is holding genuine victims back.”
Mr Berke, a partner at the firm Lewis Hymanson Small, has previously represented the mother of missing Israeli soldier Zachery Baumel against the Foreign Office. His expertise has been sought in sexual offence cases in both the strictly Orthodox and wider Jewish community.
Following the aftermath of the Evans case, Mr Berke criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for pursuing the MP with substantial police resources and leading barristers in a high-profile case, despite having “little hard-edged evidence”.
He believed that the case could “damage the momentum of victims coming forward” which had built up since the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Me Berke, who sits on the board of the British-Israel Chamber of Commerce and is a member of UJIA’s Young Leadership Group, also called for the same life-long anonymity for people acquitted of sexual prosecutions as is afforded to alleged victims, and for equal resources to prosecute all rape cases.
He said: “It isn’t fair. What justice is it to a girl who gets raped on her way home from a night out, whose case is going to be investigated by a couple of police officers and prosecuted by a middle-ranking junior barrister. Why is her access to justice worth less than complainants in this high profile case?”