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Sinn Féin seek legislative change to tackle victim blaming in Courts - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

15 November, 2018 - by Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin will be tabling amendments to the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences Bill) to tackle the use of victim blaming strategies in the courts.

The Bill is due to come before the Justice Committee in the coming weeks.

Speaking today, Justice Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD said;

"The story that emerged from the recent court case in Cork, was appalling, indefensible and another example of victim blaming.

“It was shocking to read reports of this recent case, where rape was complained of by a 17 year old, that the defence lawyers attempted to point to her thong as proof of her consent. To many watching on, this seems like an implication of blame on the part of the victim, when nothing could be further from the truth.

“It is clear proof that there are not adequate protections for victims of rape, when they appear before the Courts. The deeply traumatic and difficult experience of many complainants is a huge contributor to the fact that Rape is so under reported. We need to radically change that experience.

“We will be seeking amendments to the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill to tackle this phenomenon, and to make it much harder for the Defence to introduce clothing as evidence in this way.

“Under section 3 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981 provides that the trial judge shall give leave to adduce evidence of, or cross examine a witness on, the complainant’s sexual experience ‘if, and only if, he is satisfied that it would be unfair to the accused person to refuse to allow the evidence to be adduced or the question to be asked'. The presumption generally being that sexual history is not relevant and therefore not admissible.

“Under section 34 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 a complainant is entitled to separate legal representation when an application is made to admit evidence of his or her sexual experience.

"The effect of referencing past sexual history, and of pointing to the clothing worn by the complainant, are essentially the same, they ascribe blame to the victim, and a form of attacking their character or implying fault.

"Therefore we will be seeking to extent those sections, of the 81 and the 01 Act, to the clothing worn by the Complainant. We need to bring an end to victim shaming in the courts and this would be a step in that direction."

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