Saturday 15 December 2018

Knickers draped over court steps in protest at rape trial remarks on teenager's thong

United: Katie Riley, Sarah Keogh, Deirdre Lynam and Sebastian Dooris, all from Dublin, make their point in O’Connell Street yesterday. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
United: Katie Riley, Sarah Keogh, Deirdre Lynam and Sebastian Dooris, all from Dublin, make their point in O’Connell Street yesterday. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

Ralph Riegel and Rachel Farrell

Hundreds of women protested in Dublin and Cork over controversial comments during a rape trial about the fact the teenage complainant was wearing a lace thong.

The protests were staged by the O'Connell Street Spire in Dublin and outside Cork Courthouse, where women draped underwear on the court steps and railings.

The Dublin protest was supported by the National Women's Council of Ireland and joined by Ruth Coppinger TD, who raised the case in the Dáil.

Almost 400 women staged a march to Cork Courthouse from St Patrick Street in the city centre.

Protesters demanded judicial reform of sexual assault cases as well as better training for barristers to avoid potential "victim blaming".

One protester carried a placard - complete with attached underwear - warning: "My knickers is not my consent."

The demonstration was organised after concern was expressed by sexual violence and rape victim support networks over the closing arguments in a rape case where the senior counsel defending a 27-year-old accused made remarks about the 17-year-old female complainant was wearing a thong.

Elizabeth O'Connell SC asked the jury to reflect while deliberating on their verdict on the specific type of underwear worn by the teenage girl at the time.

"Does the evidence outrule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone?" she asked.

"You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front."

March: Aine O’Gorman from Tipperary protests in O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
March: Aine O’Gorman from Tipperary protests in O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photo: Kyran O'Brien

The jury took just 90 minutes of deliberation to reach their unanimous not guilty verdict last week.

However, the reference to the complainant's underwear sparked concerns from both the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Sexual Violence Ireland.

Mary Crilly of Cork Sexual Violence Centre paid tribute to the journalist who reported on what was said at the trial.

Protester Jackie Foley from Ballyvolane said there can be no place for "victim blaming or victim shaming".

An independent review of how rape cases are handled, which is being led by Tom O'Malley, is to look at specialist training for legal professionals and whether training is needed to ensure vulnerable witnesses are protected during the trial process.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News