Belfast trial prompts review of protection for complainants in rape trials in the south

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has announced a review of the legal protection extended to complainants in rape and sexual assault trials in the wake of a high-profile rape trial in Belfast.

Mr Flanagan told The Irish Times that he would “commence consultations with women’s groups and the legal profession without delay”.

The review will consider whether complainants should receive legal representation in trials, as well as how cases can be processed faster and whether additional training is necessary for gardaí.

It follows criticism over aspects of the nine-week Belfast Crown Court trial of Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who were found not guilty of raping a woman.

Mr Flanagan added: “I want the Domestic Violence Bill enacted within weeks, and the Criminal Justice Sexual Offences Act and the Victims of Crime Act are being rolled out offering greater protection. I will study what more can be done to protect women and girls.”

Irish media coverage of the Belfast trial highlighted key differences in how rape trials are conducted north and south of the border.

In Northern Ireland, defendants are named and the public is allowed to attend the gallery, whereas rape trials south of the border have stricter rules around anonymity and public access is not allowed.

Although the complainant is entitled to anonymity in Northern Ireland, The Irish Times noted that public access to the gallery meant it “wasn’t long before her name was widely known and shared on social media”.

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