Wednesday, 17 Apr 2024

Judge claims public should be excluded from rape trials in Northern Ireland following Belfast rape trial

The public should be banned from attending rape trials in Northern Ireland, a retired appeal court judge has recommended.

But John Gillen, who also proposed legislation to curb the “inappropriate” use of social media during trials, ruled out giving anonymity to defendants.

The draft recommendations are among 220 proposals in Mr Gillen’s review ordered by the Criminal Justice Board into how serious sexual offence cases are dealt with.

It comes in the wake of the high-profile trial of former Ulster Rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

The pair were acquitted of rape after a nine-week hearing earlier this year.

Mr Gillen said one of his reasons for recommending that the public should be barred from rape trials was that many complainants found the prospect of giving their innermost details in court humiliating, in “the cruel gaze of the public”.

He also proposes legislation to “manage the dangers created by the inappropriate use of social media”.

Mr Gillen said that social media publishers should be made liable for “legally objectionable” material.

“You cannot have a situation where juries are exposed to not only inaccuracies, but absolute lies at times during the course of a trial – with pictures of the complainant circulating that aren’t even the complainant,” he said.

He called for the introduction of a new offence with prison sentences for jurors who breached judges’ directions not to look at social media material.

He also rejected calls for the press to be excluded from rape trials, saying the concept of open justice was an important principle.

Meanwhile, on the matter of a victim’s clothing, Mr Gillen said he had no idea what the phrase “provocative clothing” meant.

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