TELL THE TRUTH AND SHAME THESE DEVILS
By Patricia Frost-Copping
Often in our judicial system it doesn't seem to be. Sometimes the truth can be shielded by our quest for legal fairness to all concerned. But what constitutes fairness when you have been raped by a man who, the police tell you, has been arrested for the same crime many times before - and has never been convicted by a jury.
They tell you he has come to court with the same defence story every time, and why not? The same warped perception of what happened, placed in the jurors minds, has served him well, and will continue to do so Justice Juries are loathe to convict at the best of times (contrary to popular belief) particularly without a signed confession, and the image they have of the police has changed over the last twenty years from 'trustworthy and honest people, whose evidence is incontrovertible', to one of 'the police are proven corruptible and no different to the rest of us.'
So why should juries believe the police will bring a just case to court? And why should they believe the police, and the victim over a 'presumed innocent' defendant? Because at the end of the day she may just be bringing a vindictive action against this poor young chap because she regrets sleeping with him.
A conviction for rape could ruin a young man's life, and who wants to be responsible for that?
But just as we are presuming innocence for the defendant, does that not automatically assume a presumption of lying on the part of the police and 'so-called' victim? After all they can't all be telling the truth, can they? And every time a rapist gets away with it the police are seen as naive dupes and the victim as a wickedly calculating and lying female. Justice However, would the verdict have been any different if the juries in question had known what the police knew about the defendant? i.e. that they have tried to convict the same man for the same crime many times before on the words of many different women. Justice Would it really be unfair to the defendant if the jury knew how many individuals had accused him before? It has been argued that it is unfair to defendants to have their previous records brought to court as evidence because even a hardened recidivist can change; and may, this time, be falsely accused of a crime similar to those(s) he has previously committed.
This is a valid point when referring to convicted criminals. They may indeed have changed; and the fact that previous records cannot be held to indicate the likelihood that they have also committed the current crime may have saved innocent persons from gaol sentences. But I wonder how many?
I wonder if it is not more likely that the guilty have avoided conviction because the jury had no idea of their particular choice of M.O.
It has also been argued that jurors may be adversely influenced in their decisions by the knowledge that the accused has been convicted of similar offences before. This seems to deny that jurors have the use of discerning minds. That they are unable to give weight to some parts of the evidence more than others and will not be able to make considered judgements. Justice If this is the case, then our jury system of trying to ascertain the guilt or innocence of any accused person is useless. The whole purpose of a jury is to weigh up the evidence, for and against, on the scales of justice and produce a verdict upon which everyone agrees.
How can a true verdict be reached if all the relevant facts about a person, pertaining to the current accusation, are not available to the jurors?
Some years ago barristers were prevented from interrogating rape victims about their past sexual record because it was, at last, deemed irrelevant to whether or not the woman had actually been raped as well as being prejudicial. Some people have said that if an accused's previous record (in the case of previously convicted rapists) is used as evidence in court, then a victim's sexual history should be fair game too.
The only thing that results from a victim's sexual history being paraded in court is that the jury turn against her if she was anything but pure as the driven snow at the time, and God help her if she had actually known her attacker; even worse if she had been out on a date with him. No, a woman's sex life is her own affair - unless she makes a habit of accusing her dates of rape. Then, of course, the police would decline to bring the case anyway.
However, by hiding the fact that an accused has been charged a number of times before for the same offence our judicial system is encouraging serial rapists.
Men who have, perhaps by chance, stumbled on a formula for convincing a jury that there is an element of doubt about whether they have in fact raped the woman in question, or men who have heard the tale told in pubs and clubs all over the country by a successfully acquitted 'stud' will continue to ruin young women's lives. And do we really want to be responsible for that?