Letter: Rape accused have rights too

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The Independent Online
Sir: It would be impossible not to sympathise with the anonymous correspondent (26 August) who says that she was attacked and raped at knifepoint. It is, however, equally impossible to agree with her when she protests that her alleged attacker, who awaits trial, ought not to be allowed to defend himself in person and to cross-examine her.

As counsel who both defends and prosecutes I agree that in the vast majority of cases a defendant is better off if represented at his trial, but there must be confidence reposed in the one by the other if counsel is to do his job properly. In any case it is likely that counsel will ask the same questions as would spring to the lips of the defendant.

Your correspondent is wrong to say that the defendant has rights but she has none. Her rights are protected by prosecuting counsel. To restrict cross-examination, whether by counsel or the accused in person, to prevent distress to the victim, must lead to injustice.

Unless and until a defendant is convicted he or she must be treated as innocent. The victim has the right to have her case put by the Crown through counsel. The defendant must not be denied the right to defend himself.


London EC4