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Calls for specialised training with rape victims 'not an attempt to dictate judges' decisions'

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A call for specialised training for judges in dealing with victims of rape and sex attacks is not an attempt to dictate judges’ decisions, a founding member of a rape crisis centre said.

Susan McKay, a former volunteer with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and founder member of the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre, said there is no reason that judges should not be educated by groups that are familiar with the consequences of the crime.

“Why shouldn’t judges be educated from groups which are familiar with thousands of difference cases?” McKay told RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme.

“People who have worked in the courts can have a very limited experience of rape. It is not saying that groups are trying to dictate to judges,” she added.

McKay’s comments come following fresh calls for judges and those in the criminal justice system to undergo training for dealing with victims of sex attacks.

“Often [judges] don’t have an understanding of the impact of rape,” McKay continued.

“Training could help them be more humane to victims of rape.”

Referring to former Justice Barry White’s comments on victim impact statements during the week, McKay said that every victim of rape should be treated with respect in the courtroom.

“To use the language that a woman might be trying it on with her victim impact statement is so judgmental and disparaging,” she said.

“[Mr Barry White] referred to one victim who he believed was very interested in compensation. Why shouldn’t a person be interested in compensation? She’s entitled to compensation.

“Rape is supposed to be regarded as a serious crime,” she continued.

“We’ve been told by the Supreme Court that it is to receive a serious sentence.

“Women should be treated with respect and not expected to act in a certain way.”

McKay was referring to Mr Barry White's comments on Tuesday where he said there have been cases where 'it would appear the victim is seeking to have undue influence upon a judge'.

“There have been cases where it would appear the victim is seeking to have undue influence upon a judge or upon the particular circumstances," he told the same radio programme earlier this week. 

“I did take exception to that. You will find, in a rape case for instance, where a jury might have returned a sexual assault rather than rape, where the victim is insisting it was rape.

“You have to respect the verdict of the jury and if the jury say it was not rape and was sexual assault, that is the manner in which it must be approached," he added.

Mr Barry White, who retired from the judiciary last week, was also criticised by Dublin Rape Crisis Centre on Tuesday following his remarks on how some rape crimes are ‘more violent’ than others.

“There can be some very violent ones and there can be less violent ones,” he told Today with Sean O’Rourke.

“That’s a factor you have to take in to account. And you also have to take in to account the position of the individual who has committed that offence.”

Chief executive Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop responded to the comments and said rape is an inherently violent act.

“There is no such thing as a ‘less violent’ rape,” she said.

“If there was ever any doubt that ongoing education and training was needed for the judiciary dealing with cases of rape and sexual violence, this interview is the perfect example of that necessity.”

The former judge said he did not believe that the judiciary needed education and training in the area.

Online Editors