On 29 January 2018 Victim Support attended the Houses of Parliament for the #StrengthenSection41 campaign launch led by Dame Vera Baird QC, Northumbria PCC, and Harriet Harman QC MP, to tackle the issue of rape complainants being questioned in court about their previous sexual history.
Volunteer Jane Hutchings was asked to present in the Attlee Suite about her experience in attending court with her clients and the issues she has witnessed around clients’ previous sexual history being raised during trial.
Jane gave a confident and meaningful speech about the effects on clients when they have experienced intrusive and inappropriate questioning from defence barristers during trial. Jane works with complex cases in her volunteering role and feels extremely passionate about victims of sexual violence receiving the respect they deserve during their criminal justice experience.
Joanna Davidson, SSDM for South East London said: “We are so proud of Jane, who stood up in the Houses of Parliament in front of influential people and spoke so articulately about a subject matter close to all of our hearts. Well done Jane and thanks for all the time you give to support your victims and witnesses of crime.”
Dame Vera Baird QC, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, summed up the need: “In the 70s, 80s and 90s we fought to protect women from being unfairly judged on their sexual historyIn the 70s, 80s and 90s we fought to protect women from being unfairly judged on their sexual history.
“That’s why in 1999 Labour brought in Section 41 to try to curtail the use of complainants’ sexual conduct with other people as evidence of consent. But the research is clear that the law is not working as Parliament intended it to and we now have to fight that fight again.
“We cannot allow rape trials to be inquisitions into the complainant’s sex life. The fear of a complainant being confronted with evidence relating to sex with other men is, and has always been, a huge deterrent to reporting rape.
“We know the government’s review does not reflect the situation in court rooms across the country and call on them to use the opportunity of the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill to protect complainants and ensure they are treated fairly in the court room.”