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PC Rape Trials Bad for Victims

PC Rape Trials Bad for Victims

Moves to muzzle rape accused conducting their own defence could harm genuine rape victims ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"If people suspect that rape trials don't treat those accused with the same fairness as other trials, and people facing false complaints have eroded rights to face their accusers, there could be less sympathy and concern for the real victims.

"The principle that an accused can challenge the accusations he faces is an ancient and fundamental right. All the alternatives should be explored before deciding to limit this right. Courts have powers to control abuses of process.

"The Government proposal essentially puts a filter between the accused and his accusers.

"I would have expected a body with a name like the Human Rights Commission to carefully weigh up the pros and cons, offer alternatives and urge caution, because once you begin to erode rights then others will come forward with politically persuasive reasons to do the same elsewhere. We can see this happening in Hon Lianne Dalziel's indication that this proposal would not cover just rape, but also extend to any domestic violence accusation.

"I agree with Donald Stevens QC who warned this morning that innocent people accused of rape are enduring terrifying court trials because of systemic failures in the justice system. There will always be innocent defendants who want to defend themselves for cost reasons as well as a touching faith that the system could not convict them because they are innocent.

"Mr Stevens went on to say that "We must not shirk from asking ourselves how much the agitation of radical feminists and rape crisis organisations has contributed towards various of these systematic failings".

"I wish the Human Rights Commission would live up to its name and call for proper inquiry to find ways of dealing with the abusive defendant which are more consistent with both principle and our rule of law tradition," Mr Franks said.

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