Northern Ireland news

Rugby rape trial: Victims' support group calls for review into how trials are conducted

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre said all parties in the rape trial were "subjected to questioning on the most intimate and private aspects of their lives in a way that was inefficient and cruel"
John Monaghan

THE trial of the Ulster Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding should lead to a general review into how cases of alleged sexual offences are conducted, a victims' support group has said.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) said that all parties were "subjected to questioning on the most intimate and private aspects of their lives in a way that was inefficient and cruel".

A spokeswoman for the DRCC said that complainants should be allowed legal support to prepare themselves for being questioned by defence teams.

"In order to achieve the law’s legitimate aim of trying to rock her evidence, she (the complainant in this case) was put into a grilling, relentless legal process, unrepresented, for six days.

"We are concerned that the reporting on this case will further deter those who might otherwise report rape," the spokeswoman said.

The DRCC has also called for members of the public to be barred from attending rape trials and for neither complainant nor accused to be named until after the trial is over, as is the case in the Republic.

"This would have prevented the extra pressure caused by a packed public gallery and attendance of the defendant’s team mates, Irish rugby captain Rory Best and Ian Henderson.

"While there are some difficulties with our system, this case shows that it is a more humane system as the naming of high profile defendants was a significant factor in the interest of the press and public in this case," added the spokeswoman for the Centre.

Nexus NI, which supports victims of sexual abuse and violence, said that the trial had "increased dialogue around sexual violence; we now need to ensure these conversations continue and that the necessary support is provided to victims."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry MLA said that the complainant in such cases was often subject to "more attention" and a more balanced approach was needed.

"Compared to other types of crime, more attention tends to fall on the actions and comments of complainants, and the criminal justice system needs to ensure the right approach is found, focusing on the relevant issues while preserving the integrity of justice," said Mr Farry.

Anyone who has been affected by sexual violence can contact Nexus, The Rowan, Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 9442 4340 and  the 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline on 0808 802 1414.

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Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry MLA also backed calls for a review of the handling of cases of alleged sex crimes. Picture by Hugh Russell

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