Sex trials

Simon Collins at NZ Herald reports:

Sexual violence survivors are launching a push for alternatives to jury trials in a bid to avoid retraumatising victims.

Speakers at a seminar in Auckland yesterday said fundamental changes were needed so raped and abused women were not “revictimised” by lawyers’ cross-examination of their sexual histories in front of juries, while offenders could stay silent.

Many victims of do have to undergo an appalling process in . At least with almost no deposition hearings now, they only go through it once.

However not everyone accused and charged is guilty. They have a right to have the evidence of their alleged victim cross-examined by their lawyer. There would be a risk of more innocent people going to prison, if they don’t have a right to challenge evidence fully.

Also as I understand it the sexual history of the victim is generally off-limit in court – unless it relates to the particular person or incident.

Justice Minister Judith Collins has halted work on proposals in a Law Commission issues paper last year to change the adversarial court system to an “inquisitorial” system where a judge controls what evidence is presented and how it is given, questions witnesses before letting lawyers fill in the gaps, and requires defendants to give evidence first.

She said last September that it would not be practical to have an inquisitorial system for sexual offences but not for other cases, because sexual offenders might also face other charges.

An inquisitorial system has its pros and cons. I wouldn’t mind having it more fully considered – but I agree it would be difficult to do for some offences only.


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