• By Admin

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre welcomes the publication by the Law Reform Commission on 27 July 2018 of an ‘Issues’ or discussion paper on the topic of ‘honest belief’ as a full defence to rape.

The current law has been a concern for the Centre for some time. In law today, a person who convinces a jury that he honestly believed the victim was consenting to sex will be acquitted of rape, even if that belief is clearly not reasonable. We asked the Minister for Justice in 2017 to amend the legislation through the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017. Instead, Minister Fitzgerald (at the time) and Minister Zappone decided to send this issue to the Attorney General, who then sent it to the Law Reform Commission for consideration.

The Law Reform Commission is now consulting on whether the current standard, or some of the other options they suggest, should apply. At Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, we say that the current standard is not acceptable and puts individual victims and all of our society at risk. Rather the test should be that an accused person’s belief in consent was ‘reasonable’, so that there is some element of rationality to a person’s belief. This is the standard used throughout the UK and elsewhere.

The Centre recognises that allowances may have to be made for diminished responsibility in some cases, and in those cases, conviction on a lesser charge may be suitable. However, the Centre stresses that the time where a person can be acquitted simply based on their own honest, unreasonable belief has passed. The law on rape is clearly based on consent and the law must uphold the obligation on every party to sexual intercourse to ensure that the behaviour is consensual.

Noeline Blackwell, CEO.

National Helpline number: 1800 77 88 88

Notes:

  1. Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is a non-governmental, voluntary organisation which has as its mission to prevent the harm and heal the trauma of rape. It offers a suite of services to victims of sexual violence.  It runs the National 24-hour Helpline for those who need it in any part of the country. It offers face to face therapy and accompaniment to the Rotunda Sexual Assault Treatment Unit, to court or to Garda stations to people in Dublin and in surrounding areas from its offices at Leeson Street. There are outreach offices at Coolock Civic Centre, Dóchas Women’s Centre, Mountjoy Prison and Tallaght Hospital.
  2. We ask that when reporting on this topic, journalists remember that discussions on sexual violence can trigger personal trauma in those receiving the information. Where possible, please make reference to the National 24-hour Helpline number 1800 77 88 88 for anyone who may be affected by the discussion.