Victims of sexual offences must get separate legal representation during criminal trials, instead of restricted to the questioning of the past sexual encounter, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has stated.

The NGO has released its entry into the Oireachtas justice committee, which is this day start hearing evidence on sufferers’ testimony in the instances of rape and sexual assault.

A review headed by Tom O’Malley SC last year refused suggestions that complainants must be eligible for independent legal representation during the whole trial process, but did support increased access to legal advice and representation in certain conditions.

Since 2001, complainants in rape and aggravated sexual offence trials are entitled to different legal representation in regard to any application that’s made to question them about their sexual history.

But, DRCC’s entry asserts that victims are put in an”improper place” where trials have been analyzing rival reports of events along with”one of these parties is represented by skilled, experienced legal agents and the other one isn’t represented in all and has no lawful groundwork for this trial”.

It includes:”Despite considerable resistance from the legal profession, and a collapse of this O’Malley report to endorse this proposal, we submit there is not just capability to offer legal representation for victims of sexual offences, however there is really a demand for this, to vindicate the rights of victims”

Committee chairperson James Lawless stated:”Giving testimony in court can be quite traumatic for victims of sexual offences and may often increase their suffering.

“The current O’Malley file, which examined issues around vulnerable witnesses in cases of rape and sexual assault, advocated extending the right to separate legal representation to victims through court cases together with the prosecution and defence.

“The committee agreed in its own work programme to test this important issue and seek written submissions from key stakeholders. One of the places we need to examine would be the way such testimony is now conducted; the way this procedure can impact victims, defendants and legal professionals; what alternate strategies there are in different jurisdictions and the way an alternate system could be implemented in Ireland.

“Members look forward to discussing such sensitive issues with all the investigators and hearing their experiences of victims’ testimony in rape and sexual assault cases function at the Irish courts “