Underwear was not held up during trial

 

Sir, – Noeleen Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, highlights the “myths” which surround the issue of rape, but in the same sentence asks, “Who can forget the image of a lawyer holding up a young woman’s underwear in court, implying that . . . she was asking for sex?” (Opinion & Analysis, August 7th). This incident, which dates from November 2018, did not occur as she recounts it in her column and is in fact a myth in itself.

While reference was made to what the complainant was wearing, as would normally be the case in a criminal trial, underwear was not displayed as some kind of grotesque prop during closing arguments, as was widely reported at the time.

Such a practice might be seen in a US television dramas, but not in an Irish courtroom.

The claim that underwear was held up appeared to originate in a British newspaper on foot of comments made by former TD Ruth Coppinger, who was the only person to actually hold up any underwear, doing so in the Dáil on November 13th, 2018.

The female lawyer at the centre of this inaccurate claim is a highly respected senior counsel, and was subjected to online vilification and threats as a result of this coverage.

This led to expressions of concern from members of the legal profession which were reported in your newspaper (“Lawyers concerned over public backlash after underwear comments in rape trial”, News, November 24th).

In view of this, it is highly regrettable that you allowed Ms Blackwell to repeat this inaccurate claim in her column. This can only serve to further deter victims from reporting sexual crimes, and deter female lawyers from representing defendants in such difficult cases. – Yours, etc,

SARAH-ANNE CLEARY,

Solicitor,

Strokestown,

Co Roscommon.