Letter: Treat rape trial women as adults

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Treat rape trial women as adults

Sir: Proposals by Victim Support ("Charity calls for end to rape victims' ordeal", 11 November) to "protect" women from the ordeal of a rape trial are alarming.

Children giving evidence in sexual abuse cases need to be shielded from the court process, as they are vulnerable members of society who may be intimidated or emotionally damaged if they are subjected to forceful cross- examination or are face to face with their alleged abuser. The same argument is now being put forward for women.

The idea that adult women need "protection" is tantamount to suggesting that we are on a par with children. Quite apart from being highly insulting, this argument undermines the ability of women to be taken seriously or treated as equals in all other spheres of life.

I agree that the court experience can be stressful and unpleasant. However, this is inevitable to ensure that the defendant can test the evidence against him. The accused is rightly presumed innocent until proved guilty.

Nowadays the clamour to uphold "Victims' Rights" is leading to the erosion of true democratic rights. Whilst one can sympathise greatly with the plight of women giving evidence at trial, we should not let this give rise to the degradation of the adversarial system or allow the prosecution to abrogate its onerous responsibility to prove its case.

Women are adults and need to be treated as such. They are fully capable of withstanding and overcoming trauma.

JULIET CRITCHLEY

(Solicitor)

Freedom and Law

London W1

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