England: Barrister casts doubt on value of video evidence in rape trials

Rape complainants who give evidence over screens are not believed because the medium is equated with watching television, a senior barrister has warned.

Amanda Pinto QC, the new chairwoman of the Bar Council, cast doubt on the value of alleged rape victims using screens in court.

She told The Times: “There is evidence to suggest that something on a screen is less real to the recipients and more like television than real life. It is scientifically proven that people react to [images on screen] differently because you think it is not real in the same way as somebody [speaking in person]. Video interviews are perceived differently than if they are able to pick up the signs, which can be very tiny [in a face-to-face] interview.”

She said she worries that people watching videolink evidence “can concentrate on the wrong things”.

“When you’re asked a question over a screen you might not have the same attention and therefore might not come across as being sincere,” she says. “That is nothing to do with the witness — or indeed the person asking the questions, or indeed the jury or the judge.”

Ms Pinto also said that Parliament must not take up the demands of campaigners who would like juries abolished in rape trials.

“Juries are really good arbiters of what the evidence shows,” she said.