Rape victims will now be allowed to give pre-recorded evidence to avoid the trauma of appearing in court
But men’s advocacy groups have said the move will impair justice for the wrongfully accused
Rape victims will no longer have to appear in court for cross-examination, thanks to new rules proposed by the Justice Secretary Liz Truss yesterday.
Instead they’ll be able to record their answers to defence lawyers’ questions in advance, in changes which will “make sure victims of these abhorrent crimes are protected and able to provide their best possible evidence”, said Truss.
The new rules, which are due to come into force in September next year, come after a successful pilot scheme with pre-recorded evidence for child sex abuse cases, and comes along with a recommendation that grooming children be made an official crime. The Justice Secretary proposes that sexual communication with a child without assaulting them could still result in up to two years in prison.
The move to pre-record rape evidence comes after years of protests about the ordeals of victims in court. Earlier this month Canadian judge Robin Camp finally stepped down after making controversial comments in a rape case, asking the woman why she couldn’t just “keep her knees together” to avoid being penetrated. In some cases victims of sex-crimes have even committed suicide after heavy cross-examination.
Truss said that the change was to be “the most major change in the courts since the Victorian era” and will bring quicker, and thus cheaper, justice. It would also see questions about previous sexual history be made inadmissible in court.
Truss added: “Attitudes to sex crimes and victims have changed beyond all recognition in our lifetime, and rape prosecutions are now at record levels.
“With more victims now finding the confidence to come forward, I am determined to make their path to justice swifter and less traumatic. This will not reduce the right to a fair trial.”
But the changes have been attacked by men’s groups who say sheltering alleged victims from questioning threatens justice by depriving juries of seeing their facial expressions and demeanor. Speaking to the Daily Mail James Conte, a campaigner for the accused.me.uk website, which supports falsely accused men, said: “If you are an innocent man who finds himself in front of a jury, you will think it unfair that your accuser is being shielded from giving evidence before the jury. This is tipping the scales of justice.”
Writing a column for the same paper Laura Perrins, a former criminal barrister, argued that the changes will create “show trials and feminised justice”.