Europe

Rape victims may be spared probes into sexual history

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The investigation, by government advisers, could result in complainants being spared having their sexual histories examined in court. The Law Commission will consider how judges and prosecutors can counter myths which often revolve around the victim’s behaviour or sexual history.

The main misconceptions the commission wants to tackle are why it can take victims longer to report attacks, a lack of resistance or injury during an assault and the victim’s behaviour after being raped. Experts will also review the current provision allowing the admission of sexual history in limited circumstances to ensure only relevant evidence is admissible at trial.

Several high-profile cases provoked fury after a victim’s sexual preferences and history were dragged out in court, leading juries to doubt their evidence.

Commissioners will also consider whether the test for releasing a victim’s counselling and medical records is strong enough. Prof Penney Lewis, Law Commissioner for Criminal Law, said: “Victims of sexual offences can be deterred from reporting the offence or supporting prosecution if they fear going to court. Our project will consider how to improve the trial process to admit only relevant evidence and better protect complainants whilst ensuring a fair trial.”

Justice Minister Victoria Atkins said: “It is vital victims of rape and sexual violence have confidence in the system and are treated with the utmost fairness in court.”

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