Warnings over rape evidence to end

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JUDGES will no longer have to give 'out-dated and demeaning' warnings to juries about the reliability of rape victims' evidence, Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, said yesterday.

Mr Howard said the fact that in cases where there was no corroborative evidence a judge currently had to warn the jury that the word of the victim - nearly always a woman - might be unreliable, discouraged some from reporting the offence.

Judges and victims disliked the mandatory warning. One femalejudge had said it sickened her to have to do it. Mr Howard told senior judges in the Midlands yesterday: 'Such a warning is out-dated and demeaning to women, particularly in rape cases. It must go.'

His announcement comes as ministers review the law governing the reporting of rape cases, which allows defendants to be named while alleged victims remain anonymous.

Again, concerns about deterring woman from coming forward mean that Mr Howard is certain to continue to protect the victim's anonymity. But he is considering proposals - supported by Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice - that the defendant's identity should also be protected, at least until conviction.

Mr Howard said judges' mandatory warnings to juries in criminal cases involving the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice called by the prosecution will also be scrapped.