Republic of Ireland news

Court evidence rules reviewed amid underwear controversy

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has commissioned an "eminent person" to examine the rules around evidence in the courts. Picture by Tom Honan
By Rebecca Black, Press Association

THE taoiseach has said he has commissioned an "eminent person" to examine the rules around evidence in the courts.

There was outrage across the country last week after a recent case in Co Cork saw a defence barrister refer to the 17-year-old complainant's underwear during a trial in which a man was acquitted of rape.

The case was brought to wider public attention on Tuesday when TD Ruth Coppinger held up a thong in the Dáil chamber to highlight the outrage felt by some sections of the public.

It also sparked a popular social media campaign with women from Ireland and abroad posting pictures of their underwear with the hastag #Thisisnotconsent.

There were protests in cities and towns across the country last week during which thongs and placards were held aloft with the words "this is not consent".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told RTÉ 1's This Week In Politics show on Sunday that he has asked an "eminent person" to examine the rules around evidence in court cases.

"Whether you are a man or a woman, if you are a victim of rape or sexual assault you are never to blame for it. It doesn't matter what you wear, where you go, who you go with or whether you have taken alcohol or drugs. No one asks to be raped," he said.

"We have asked a very eminent person to examine, particularly around the rules of evidence, as to what kind of evidence can or cannot be admitted in court.

"This is an area that absolutely requires examination – we are committed to doing that and we are going to do that. If we need to make changes we will.

"But at the same time, what we can never move away from is that basic democratic idea that someone is innocent until proven guilty, and anyone who is accused is entitled to put forward their defence.

"But perhaps there are ways we can change court rules and procedures under rule of evidence so that people can't produce some of these defences which I think all of us find quite sickening."

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