Rape Law: Victims on Trial?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) and the Law School, Trinity College are jointly hosting a conference entitled “Rape Law: Victims on Trial?” in Dublin Castle on Saturday January 16th 2010. The conference will mark the 30th anniversary of the DRCC.

Delegates including President Mary McAleese and Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop at Trinity College

President Mary McAleese is opening the conference which will be chaired by The Honourable Mr. Justice Paul Carney.

Mr. James Hamilton, DPP, and Senator Ivana Bacik will launch the results of a joint research project on separate legal representation in rape trials in the Central Criminal Court. The research was undertaken by Senator Bacik and the DRCC with the participation and collaboration of the DPP’s office and the Civil Legal Aid Board.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, Chief Executive, DRCC, said “In 2001 legislation was introduced which allowed for the victim in a rape or sexual offence trial, entitlement to have legal representation to enable her or him to argue against the introduction of evidence relating to her or his past sexual history. This research project examines for the first time since the law was changed, the context in which the defence applies for permission to cross examine rape victims, in relation to their past sexual history. It also explores the effectiveness of victims being separately represented at trial.”

Professor Liz Kelly of the London Metropolitan University and Dr. Paul O’Mahony, Trinity College Dublin will discuss recent studies undertaken on the rate of attrition in rape trials, while Tom O’Malley, National University of Ireland Galway, senior lecturer and barrister, will address the issues of criminal procedures and sentencing in rape trials before the criminal courts.

Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, believes that: “The conference Rape Law: Victims on Trial? will both inform and challenge the debate on rape trials. The DRCC has been calling for a long time for legislative reform and judicial training in this area. The DRCC has argued that rape trials are stacked in favour of the accused and that issues such as unnecessarily aggressive cross examination and inappropriately introducing evidence of a victim’s past sexual history, result in a unduly traumatic court experience for victims.”

Commenting on the research findings, Senator Ivana Bacik said: “Our research shows that judges grant defence applications to introduce evidence about the sexual history of rape victims very frequently. This is despite the highly prejudicial nature of the reasons being offered by the defence. In particular we found one commonly-used defence argument was that the victim was “promiscuous”. This sort of argument unfortunately strengthens the myths about rape and has potential to undermine the victim’s evidence in court.”

We hope the research presented at the conference will feed the debate on establishing limits on the cross-examination of victims.

To obtain speaker notes/presentations click on the link for the speaker names below:

Senator Ivana Bacik – Separate Legal Representation In Rape Trials

President of Ireland, Mary McAleese – Remarks

Dr. Paul O’Mahony – The Attrition Rate In Rape

Prof. Liz Kelly – The (In)credible Words of a Woman

Mr. James Hamilton, Director of Public Prosecutions – Speech

For further information please contact:
Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop, CEO, DRCC – 01 661 4911 / 086 809 9618

< Back to Media