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Sinn Féin Bill to tackle reference to clothing in sexual offences trials

11 December, 2019 - by Martin Kenny TD, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin have today published the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill 2019 to tackle use of references to the clothing of the complainant in sexual offence trials.

The Bill, co-sponsored by Martin Kenny TD and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, will also ensure that there are greater safeguards relating to sexual history introduced.

Speaking today, Sinn Féin TD for Cork South Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said:

“A little over twelve months ago, it was reported that in a rape case in Cork the defence lawyers introduced as evidence a thong belonging to a 17 year old complainant.

“It was appalling, indefensible and was a strategy which clearly implied that the victim was to blame.

“The dreadful approach taken by the defence team in this case rightly drew criticism here and internationally.

“It was clear proof that there are not adequate protections for victims of rape and to prevent this kind of behaviour, which has no evidential value, when they appear before the courts.

“It is as a consequence of this, that myself and my colleague Martin Kenny TD have sought to fix this clear failing in the law.”

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Deputy Martin Kenny said

"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.

"The use of clothing or past sexual history as part of a defence strategy is used to imply consent on the part of the complainant and attack their character.

“This legislation ensures that it will not be possible to introduce either clothing in evidence, unless the Judge is sure that to not allow it would mean the defendant could not get a fair trial. 

“Where an application is made by the defendants legal team to allow either clothing or sexual history as evidence, then the complainant shall have legal representation at any hearing for such an application.

"I believe this would address the instance of the case in Cork and would be a significant step forward in tackling victim blaming strategies in court.”

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