Ireland

All sex crime suspects should keep anonymity unless they are convicted, report recommends

Expert group was appointed by government after the 2018 Belfast rape trial

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson: he was unanimously acquitted in Belfast Crown Court of raping a woman. An expert group was appointed after the 2018 trial. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Former Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson: he was unanimously acquitted in Belfast Crown Court of raping a woman. An expert group was appointed after the 2018 trial. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Suspects charged with sex crimes should not be named when their cases are before the courts unless and until they are convicted, a group appointed by government after the 2018 Belfast rape trial has recommended.

While those charged in the Republic with rape and other sex offences on the so-called upper end of the scale currently have anonymity during trials, suspects charged with some other sexual assaults can be named.

In a report due for publication today the expert group, chaired by barrister and NUI Galway law lecturer Tom O’Malley, recommends that if suspects were convicted they could be named, as long as naming them did not identify their victims. At the same time, victims would retain anonymity unless they wanted to waive it so the person who attacked them could be named in the media.

Belfast house party

Mr O’Malley was asked to carry out his study by then minister for justice Charlie Flanagan, shortly after rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of raping a woman at a house party in Belfast.

The group has decided against recommending that sex crime victims be allocated their own legal representation during trials, saying such a move would destabilise how court cases were run.

However, it said new pretrial hearings should be established, at which complainants would be legally represented. Any barrister planning to question a complainant about their sexual history would need to apply to do so at a pretrial hearing.

The report adds judges and others involved in the justice system should have to undergo “specialist training which equips them with an understanding of the experience of victims of sexual crime”.

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