Wales politics

Plaid Cymru MP's bid to ban rape victim sex history quiz

Ched Evans leaves court with his fiancee Natasha Massey Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Ched Evans was found not guilty of rape following a retrial

An MP is launching a bid to stop alleged rape victims being cross-examined in court about their sexual history or appearance.

Liz Saville Roberts' private members' bill is aimed at giving victims more confidence in coming forward to report rape.

It comes after the Ched Evans retrial jury was allowed to hear details about the sexual history of the complainant.

Chesterfield striker Mr Evans was cleared of rape last October.

Following the case Attorney General Jeremy Wright told the Commons that giving a court details of a complainant's sexual history was not "routinely used" in such cases, but there was "a concern".

A review into the laws protecting alleged rape victims was also launched.

Ms Saville Roberts, the Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, will introduce the bill on Wednesday. It has cross-party support.

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Media captionLiz Saville Roberts on why she feels the bill is needed

It replicates the so-called 'Rape Shield Law' which exists in the USA, Canada and Australia and aims to prevent the cross-examination of a rape complainant's sexual history, previous behaviour or appearance.

"It is neither right nor just that a victim of rape can be questioned in court on matters not relevant to the case in hand," said Ms Saville Roberts.

"Yet in the recent past victims have been humiliated by lawyers asking questions about their sexual partners, their clothing and appearance.

"Such practices will undoubtedly make victims reluctant to come forward and more likely to drop complaints and there is already anecdotal evidence that high profile cases involving such evidence being used has led to a drop in the number of women who are coming forward."

An 18-month study undertaken by Dame Vera Baird QC in 2015 concluded that in over a third of all rape cases heard at Newcastle Crown Court, there were questions about prior sexual conduct of the complainant.

'Victim blaming'

The charity Voice4Victim, which worked closely with Ms Saville Roberts on the bill, said changes to legislation were urgently needed.

Its founder Claire Waxman said: "This brutal cross-examination of rape victims re-traumatises the victim and causes them irreparable harm.

"It's this victim-blaming attitude of rape victims that needs to be stamped out from the justice process to ensure victims have the faith and confidence to come forward and report these serious crimes."

In 2012, Mr Evans, 28, was found guilty of raping a 19-year-old woman in a hotel room in Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, the previous year. He served half of a five-year prison term.

But that conviction was quashed on appeal last April and he was found not guilty of the same charge at the subsequent retrial.

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