Monday 10 December 2018

Legislation being drafted to deal with sexual stereotypes used during rape trials - Ivana Bacik

Senator Ivana Bacik
Senator Ivana Bacik
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Judges should be empowered to direct juries to disregard sexual stereotypes raised during rape trial proceedings, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik has said.

Ms Bacik said her party is drafting legislation to deal with the gender and sexual stereotypes being used during trials.

She declined to comment directly on a recent case where a barrister for an accused rapist remarked on the fact that a 17-year-old complainant was wearing a thong.

The defendant in that case was later found not guilty.

Ms Bacik said: “Without commenting on any specific case, clearly reports that language about sexual stereotyping, about clothing or underwear being worn by complainants would be very concerning.

“I and others are hugely concerned that this sort of thing would become an issue in jury deliberations.

“But the way to deal with that – and we’re looking at drafting this legislation now – is to direct judges that they should direct juries to discount and disregard any reference to sexual stereotyping being made in the closing speeches of counsel on either side during rape trials and trials of serious sexual offences.”

Justice minister Charlie Flanagan was asked if he would support such legislation.

He said he would not make commitments on such proposals until he hears from the review group led by legal expect Tom O'Malley which is examining how rape trials are conducted in Ireland.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan also highlighted the role of judges when asked if there should be restrictions on how barristers conduct defences in rape trials.

He said: “Barristers have an obligation to defend their clients fearlessly.

“They also have an obligation to the court to ensure that any statements or submissions they make in court are accurate and not misleading.

“Barristers should also be conscious of the effect that their submissions or questioning may have on complainants.

“If a barrister makes an insensitive or inappropriate point that will be punished by a jury which will probably be dissuaded or even offended by such point.”

Mr O’Callaghan also said: “All barristers are subject to the supervisory function of the judge hearing the trial and if they overstep the line that is a matter that will be corrected by a judge when addressing the jury.”

He added: “We should await the publication of the report of Tom O’Malley before suggesting any new guidelines for the prosecution of rape and sexual offence trials.”

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section