Justice expert to examine anonymity of defendants in rape trials

Prof Tom O’Malley’s review follows protests over Belfast rape trial

 Minister for Justice  Charlie Flanagan  said he hoped to have the  recommendations back by the end of the year or early next year. Photograph: Liam McBurney/ PAWire

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he hoped to have the recommendations back by the end of the year or early next year. Photograph: Liam McBurney/ PAWire

 

The anonymity of defendants in rape trials will be examined by criminal justice expert Prof Tom O’Malley in his examination of how rape trials are conducted in the Republic, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has said.

Mr Flanagan said on Tuesday the issue would form “part and parcel” of Mr O’Malley’s review.

The review was announced last summer followed widespread protests in response to the acquittal of Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding in the Belfast rape trial.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Sir John Gillen, in his preliminary report into how the law in Northern Ireland handles serious sexual crime cases, this week noted the Republic was the only common law country that allows anonymity in rape trials.

Mr Flanagan said he did not want to make any comments on the issue of anonymity before the O’Malley working group delivered its report to him.

“This is an issue that again will form part and parcel of his review, I don’t wish to make any pre-emption. All of the issues pertaining to a criminal justice trial for sexual abuse or rape or sexual assault are being considered by the Tom O’Malley working group,” he said.

Mr Flanagan said he hoped to have those recommendations back by the end of the year or early next year.

“He is in close contact with all interested stakeholders and, for example, with the criminal justice system, the Garda Síochána, with the DPP, and the courts services.”

Gillen report

Mr Flanagan also said the Gillen report would help the Government decide on what future changes may need to be made.

“I myself have met all the advocacy groups over the course of the summer since the Belfast rape trial acquittal. I want to acknowledge the importance of the report today and say that there were numerous occasions during the course of the summer where I would have liked to have engaged with the authors in Northern Ireland.

“I can’t do that because of the institutions but I would say from what I have read of the report that it will help assist us in forming best practice within our own jurisdiction not withstanding a difference of emphasis in many of the legal practices and procedures.”

Meanwhile, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said her party was drafting legislation which would empower judges to direct that a line of defence which contains any “sexual stereotypes” be disregarded.

It comes following controversy over a case in the Central Criminal Court in Cork where the defence barrister commented that the complainant in the case, who was 17 at the time, was “wearing a thong with a lace front”.

Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger last week brandished a thong in the Dáil as she called on the Government to make “massive legal changes” to end the “routine victim blaming going on in Irish courts” in sexual assault cases.