Legal Representation for Sexual Assault Complainants
Rachel Killean, Eithne Dowds and Anne-Marie McAlinden (eds), Sexual Violence on Trial (Routledge, 2021 Forthcoming)
21 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2020
Date Written: August 10, 2020
Traditionally, the notion of a legal representative for sexual assault complainants has been dismissed within adversarial criminal justice systems. It has been argued that the two-sided contest between the prosecution and defence cannot accommodate a third party without violating the rights of the accused, and that the complainant’s interests can be adequately protected by the prosecutor or court judge. However, the past 30 years have seen a development in ‘victims’ rights’ which has seen several adversarial systems incorporate some form of representation. This chapter explores these developments, and the arguments for and against introducing legal representation for complainants. The chapter argues that an adversarial process does not pose an insurmountable barrier to legal representation, and that a carefully managed system of representation could do much to avoid the high risks of secondary victimisation for sexual assault complainants. The chapter outlines the recommendations made by Sir John Gillen in his review of sexual offence trials in Northern Ireland and considers whether such proposed reforms would sufficiently address the challenges faced by sexual offence complainants.
Keywords: Sexual Violence, Legal Representation, Criminal Law and Procedure
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