Groups Fight to Make Rape Trials More Compassionate
Police, MPs and women's groups are pressuring England's Home Secretary Jack Straw to allow rape victims to testify behind a screen and to avoid cross-examination about their sex lives.
The groups were moved to action by a report, released Wednesday, that showed rape rates are rising, while rape convictions are decreasing. Only 19% of all rape complaints are taken to court, and half of the defendants are later acquitted.
More than 100 MPs have signed a motion supporting court procedural reform. Straw said, "There is a great deal to do to make the system better and more sensitive to the needs of the victim. More needs to be done to protect witnesses in court. We have to get away from the hostile environment. Victims have already suffered one trial with the rape itself."
Civil liberties groups are protesting such a change, saying that while rape victims should be protected, defendants have the right to confront their accusers in court.
Media Resources: The Times (of London) - September 18, 1997