Sexual history of rape victims is still put on trial

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Sep 25, 2017
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Victims are protected by law from unfair questioning about their sexual history

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Victims of alleged rape or sexual assault are questioned about their sexual history at trial in nearly three out of four cases, a survey shows. 

The survey of more than 550 trials over two years found the law that protects against such questioning is not being applied as it should and many complainants were ambushed during cross-examination. 

Under section 41 of the Youth Justice Crime and Evidence Act 1999, victims are protected from unfair or irrelevant questioning about their sexual history and should be notified if such questioning is to take place. 

However, the survey by Limeculture, a sexual violence training organisation, which was reported in The Times this morning, found that many alleged victims were questioned in breach of the guidelines. In 28 per cent of cases they were not notified of such questioning. In 44 per cent of cases, they were notified only after the trial had started. 

The report concludes that where section 41 is not being properly applied, it will be up to the judge or prosecution to intervene to ensure that the law is upheld. 

“It is clear that a failure to intervene could lead to unfair questioning of the complainant about their previous sexual history and therefore undermine the legislation and indeed the presumption that it includes in order to protect the complainant,” the report said.

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