Reforms give rape victims right to give video evidence

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The Independent Online

Video recordings of statements made to police by alleged rape victims can now be used as their main evidence in court, ministers announced yesterday.

Details of their initial complaint to friends or relatives can also be disclosed to juries, regardless of how long after an alleged attack they are made. Judges will be told a woman can be too drunk to consent to sex even if she is still conscious.

The plans to reform rape trials aim to tackle "myths" surrounding the crime in an attempt to increase low conviction rates. Fewer than 15 per cent of attacks are reported and only 5.7 per cent result in a conviction the lowest rate in Europe.

The solicitor general, Vera Baird, said she was worried that too many judges were confused by the rules on consent, leading to rapists being wrongly cleared. The country's most senior judge, Sir Igor Judge, will be asked to clarify the law to his colleagues following a recent Appeal Court ruling.

Ministers believe that allowing video statements will produce more "compelling and coherent" evidence than that which is given in court months later. It would also lessen the trauma for victims. Ms Baird said: "We are determined to ensure cases before the courts are as strong as possible and are prosecuted as strongly as possible."

The Government will also appoint a panel of doctors, judges and academics to examine how to address the "myths" about rape victims which can reduce likelihood of a conviction. Ms Baird added: "Juries sometimes find it difficult to understand why a rape has not been reported to police immediately when, in fact, it can take victims some time to decide to make a complaint.

Katherine Rake, of the Fawcett Society, a group campaigning for sexual equality, said the new measures were welcome.