Rapists lose right to quiz victims

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The Independent Online
Alleged rapists who defend themselves will lose the automatic right to cross-examine their victims under plans announced yesterday by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.

The move is aimed at ending the "double rape" of a victim, who is forced to relive her experience in minute detail by answering questions posed by the attacker in open court.

It follows the Old Bailey case last summer of Julia Mason, who suffered six traumatic days of court-room interrogation by the man who raped her twice. The case caused a public outcry.

Mr Howard said: "I think it is right that the courts should have the discretion, where necessary, to protect such vulnerable victims."

It is proposed that judges would be given discretion to stop defendants who are representing themselves in court from personally cross-examining victims of rape and other offences. Instead, cross-examination could only be conducted by a representative of the defendant.

The move follows outrage that Mrs Mason, 34, had to face prolonged interrogation by her attacker, Ralston Edwards, who turned up in court in the same clothes he wore on the night of the rape. Edwards, who had raped before, was given two life sentences for the attack.

Last night, Mrs Mason told ITN she hoped other women would not now have to go through what she had been through: "Hopefully people who have been the victim of serious crime will come forward because obviously what happened to me put a lot of people off."

She had waived her right to anonymity to press for the law to be changed, because, she said: "It was as if I had been raped once by Edwards, and again by the British judicial system."

Victim Support also welcomed the plans. Its spokes man, Paul Collins, said: "Too many women don't report sex crimes because they fear the ordeal that faces them if they do."