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Sex attack suspects to get anonymity in court under reform

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Minister Helen McEntee wants greater support for victims

Minister Helen McEntee wants greater support for victims

Minister Helen McEntee wants greater support for victims

Defendants accused of sexual assault will be granted anonymity in all cases under a law to be brought forward next year.

The Government will consider using the same legislation to punish those who reveal the identity of rape victims on social media, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said.

The proposed law is among measures being brought forward under reforms to how the criminal justice system deals with rape victims.

Yesterday, the Government published its plan to reform rape trials amid concern from survivors and campaigners that the legal process may put victims off coming forward.

Convicted

It follows a major report, led by senior law lecturer Tom O'Malley, that proposed granting anonymity to those accused of sexual violence in all cases.

At the moment, people accused of rape are given anonymity during a trial until they are convicted.

Ms McEntee confirmed she had accepted a call to extend this right to anonymity to all those accused of sexual assault. She said she would start working on a law to do so in January.

"We would have legislation presented to government before the end of next year. We are absolutely committed to that," she said.

Ms McEntee said issues around social media would be "grouped together" under the same law.

The O'Malley report said laws that prosecute the media for revealing a victim's identity should be updated to include social media. The Government has accepted this recommendation.

Ms McEntee said the Government wanted to bring in measures to assure rape victims they would be supported throughout the legal process.

"People are not coming forward because they don't necessarily think there will be justice at the end of this," she said.

"Sometimes people start the process, feel it's too difficult and don't carry it through to the very end."

From next year, judges and barristers will receive training on how to deal with sensitive witnesses, including complainants in rape cases.

Victims of sexual violence will still not be entitled to have their own legal representation throughout a trial.

Complainants are allowed their own legal representation only when the defence in a rape trial is applying to ask them about their sexual history. This would also be extended to victims of sexual assault.

The Legal Aid Board will also make sure the lawyer representing a victim is as senior as the person representing the prosecution and the defence in the court.


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