Saturday 14 December 2019

Anger over former judge's 'less violent' rape claims

Judge Barry White
Judge Barry White
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A rape crisis centre has reiterated its call for members of the judiciary to undergo specialist training in relation to sentencing, following controversial remarks by a recently retired Central Criminal Court judge.

Mr Justice Barry White made a distinction between "very violent" rapes and "less violent ones" during a radio interview.

The comments prompted a flurry of calls to the national 24-hour helpline for victims of sexual violence, according to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

It chief executive, Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, said callers had expressed "anger and upset" at the remarks.

"Rape is an inherently violent act. There is no such thing as a 'less violent rape'," she said.

During the interview, on RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke, the experienced judge said he didn't believe members of the judiciary needed training in relation to rape sentencing.

"You have to look at the particular circumstances of the act of rape, there can be some very violent ones and there can be less violent ones. So that's a factor that you have to take into account," he said. "You also have to take into account the position of the individual who has committed that offence."

The judge continued: "There may be judges who are inexperienced in dealing with crime, who find themselves sitting in the Central Criminal Court from time to time.

"But most judges who sit in the Central Criminal Court have had long criminal experience and have had substantial criminal practices over a protracted period of time. And they are fully aware, as to the parameters within which a sentence should be imposed."

Ms O'Malley-Dunlop also criticised comments the judge made about a rape victim in a case earlier this year, saying they highlighted "an implicit judgment of the victim".

During the sentencing hearing for Co Clare developer Thomas Egan, the judge said he did not believe the rape had "a profound psychological effect" on the victim, a Brazilian woman. He said it struck him she was more interested in compensation than anything else.

Mr Justice White stood over the remarks yesterday.

No judge took up a previous offer of training on the impact of rape, sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse from the Rape Crisis Centre.

"If judges were to understand more fully the consequences on the individual of these most heinous crimes, it would more fully inform their understanding of the impact on the victim," she said.

The centre is currently in discussions with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to develop a pilot training programme for prosecutors.

Irish Independent

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