John Gillen review: Call for legal representation for victims welcomed

Northern Ireland review of response to rape should be required reading all over the UK

Responding to the publication today (20 November) of the John Gillen Review initial findings and recommendations on the justice system’s response to serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland, Sarah Green, Co-Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:

John Gillen’s review is a compelling read. He has not been afraid to talk to all interested parties, to name some of what has been unsayable around rape trials, and to make bold recommendations.

“His recognition that “rape myths” are a reality and a serious problem in rape trials is very welcome. The Review’s recommendations that educational material for jurors and perhaps expert witnesses be introduced are strong. Sir John is also right to call for research on the extent of these prejudiced attitudes, and for public and school campaigns to tackle them, because rape is not just a courtroom matter, and the Government has responsibility for the long-term protection of women and girls from assault.

“We strongly welcome the Review’s call for legal advice and representation for those who make a rape allegation, because the failure to provide this is at the heart of why rape trials are often so harmful to the main “witness” who is usually a woman. We also support the call for a change in the Northern Ireland law on rape so that whether consent was sought is examined, as well as whether it was freely given.

“There is massive worry and anger about the state of justice for rape across the UK. We hope that the Home and Justice Secretaries in London, all judges, police and prosecution leaders, support agencies and everyone with a connection to this issue will read and consider what is set out in this initial part of the Review. We have to get to a different place in our entire response to rape, because at present the crime is effectively partially decriminalised.”

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