Wales politics

Rape victim sexual history questioning law review welcomed

Woman with head in hands Image copyright Thinkstock

More rape victims would come forward if a law allowing their sexual history to be brought up in court is changed, a Plaid Cymru MP has said.

Liz Saville Roberts, who tabled a private members' bill last week over the issue, said current legislation was "inadequate" for protecting victims.

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

The UK government is reviewing the law.

Ms Saville Roberts said that victims enduring the "degrading and humiliating experience of being cross-examined on their sexual history" was "wholly unjust".

The Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP said she would be seeking an urgent meeting with Justice Secretary Liz Truss to discuss the review.

Section 41 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 protects complainants in proceedings involving sexual offences by restricting evidence or questions about their previous sexual history.

But the Plaid MP said the practice was happening far more often than intended and introduced a private members' bill in Parliament on Wednesday to make changes to legislation.

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.

Ms Saville Roberts said: "Rape victims should not have to endure the humiliation of their sexual history being made public and being used against them in court.

"Whether or not someone has consented to sex in the past is not relevant to whether or not they gave consent to an alleged attacker."

"Listened to concerns"

The UK government's Ministry of Justice (MoJ) department said the Justice Secretary had met with victims' groups to discuss strengthening support for victims of rape.

A spokesman said: "It is vital that we have a justice system where victims of rape are given the right support and protection.

"The bar for the disclosure of a complainant's sexual history is high but we have listened to the concerns raised and are looking at how the law is working in practice."

The Prisons and Courts Bill, due later this month, will stop women being cross-examined by their violent ex-partners in family courts, the MOJ said.

Last month, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss ordered an emergency review into the practice she branded as "humiliating and appalling".

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Ched Evans was found not guilty of rape following a retrial

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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