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Ask A Lawyer: Will my sexual history be read out in Court?

Ask A Lawyer: Will my sexual history be read out in Court?

We asked Mark Savage, one of our legal team, ‘will my sexual history be read out in Court?:

Many women, particularly those who are the victims of rape and sexual abuse often ask whether their sexual history will be read out in Court or whether they will be cross examined about their previous sexual history if they complain about sexual abuse.

In the bad old days, before the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act, women who complained about their partners were often subjected to extensive, unnecessary and hostile questioning about their sexual history in an attempt to both humiliate and undermine their credibility.

Thankfully, both Society and the Court have matured in their approach to questioning. it is no longer automatic that the Courts will allow such cross examination, or indeed read evidence.

the Courts will not allow for any questioning about previous sexual behaviour unless it is relevant to the incident for which the defendant is to be tried. There will be no lengthy and humiliating questions about past incidents, proper questions can only be put to any witness, firstly if leave, ie, permission is given by the trial judge for such proper and relevant questions to be put. The questions must be put only if there is relevant evidence about sexual behaviour. An application for leave has to be made in writing, and the Defendants lawyers must show that they can satisfy the Judge that it is relevant.

The fairly recent case involving the footballer Ched Evans caused widespread concern. Let me explain why it should not. Ched Evans, and his friend had sex with a young woman. Both had a trial. Mr. Evans was convicted after trial, and spent 2 1/2 years in prison. He had a retrial. Evidence was put in his retrial, that was specific. The Judge refused the evidence to allow the evidence to be put to the complainant in the first trial. The evidence was so specific, and so relevant, that the second trial Judge allowed the evidence to go before the Court. He was acquitted on retrial.

S41 of the YJCEA requires the evidence to be so similar to the complainants behaviour at the time of the complaint. It is for the Defendant to establish the true relevance of the evidence to the issues in the case in which you are to give evidence. The Judge has to be satisfied that the evidence is relevant to the issues of the case.

This does not mean that questions cannot be put in an attempt to undermine the credibility of the witness. Proper and relevant questions can be put, and the test is specific, and quite a hurdle for the defendant to overcome.

it is not automatic, even if the questions may have relevance, for the trial Judge to give permission to question anyone on their previous sexual history. It would never be read out in Court, and neither should it. The Court exists to ensure that each witness, both the Defendant and the Complainant give their best evidence. You may not have to appear in the same Courtroom as the Defendant, evidence can be given by videolink, you can give evidence behind screens so that the Defendant cannot see you. Gone are the days where further control can be exerted against you by humiliation in Court, and that is progress.

Questions cannot be put to humiliate, it is a poor advocate who tries such a tactic, and I can guarantee that any Judge will quickly slap down such tactics.

Giving evidence can be traumatic, Witness support are worth their weight in gold for providing guidance. Take the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the Courtroom before giving evidence. It is a Courtroom, not a cockpit. Speak about your concerns to your barrister, more importantly, remember, if your history is not relevant, it is not heard. It is a hard test to overcome for the defendant.

Always remember this, if he tells you, “All your past will come out”, he is both wrong, and bullying. Don’t let a threat stand in the way of the truth.

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The Daisy Chain Project

Domestic Abuse Prevention Charity- Legal advice
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The Daisy Chain Project
Hello all! Just to let you know we are working a little slower than normal due to our recent press coverage- we got an influx!

We have a little queue system in place so please bear with us- we are always happy to help where we can.

We also have recruited at least one, but possibly more, shiny new lawyers!

Stay tuned for more news 🙂
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The Daisy Chain Project
We’re fresh out of a team briefing at Worthing Job Centre in which we worked with Safe in Sussex to inform the Job Centre Staff about what they can do if they suspect one of their clients is in an abusive relationship.

We were told that with joint claims under Universal Credit, it is unfortunately possible for an abuser to exercise further control over their victim.

We believe education is the key to prevention regarding domestic abuse, and to recognise the signs can lead to early intervention.

If your organisation needs any information or briefings on the law surrounding domestic abuse, please give us a shout- we are more than happy to offer this service!
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The Daisy Chain Project
Hi all, welcome to the new followers on this sunny day!

A friendly reminder- we will only offer you legal advice if you are the victim of the domestic abuse.

We take this view because we feel it is safer for genuine victims as we cannot prove so that we are sure that another ‘interested’ party won’t jeopardise the case and put the victim in more danger. We will also not divulge any information about any of our clients to anybody who asks us but for in circumstances where the client agrees for us to share information with other services.

If you are concerned about a friend, colleague, or family member, please gently encourage them to contact us for legal advice, or many of the other fabulous organisations out there for more practical advice.

Thank you.
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We are thrilled! Thanks so much to the OSPCC!
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The Daisy Chain Project
Now the election is over we can announce we have received £8,500.00 in funding from National Lottery Awards For All.

This means that we have been able to fund a mobile phone app, which our app designer is currently designing (more on that in the future but we are very excited!)

And another book!

We have MORE news to share very very soon!

Other people in similar situations as us- what do you do if with no notification a client is half an hour late for an appointment? Do you just accept they aren’t coming, try and contact them, or strike them off so they aren’t a client anymore?

Another really positive result for a client today. #wearekeepingyousafe

If you need our assistance, please note that although we can complete things quickly, court the same or next day is something we are unlikely to be able to help with. We always will if we can, but unfortunately due to court deadlines etc it isn’t always possible

Calling all lawyers - want to make a difference and put something back? Please contact @_TDCP_ and volunteer your services to help victims of domestic abuse in Sussex #VolunteersRock

A first in the UK - pro bono legal advice for victims of domestic abuse in Sussex @MoJGovUK @AssocPCCs

Also can we take a moment to appreciate our existing legal team, who are absolutely amazing?! Big love to all of you. Without you, none of this would be possible. Especially @DamianAStuart @MarkPeterSavage @simonspenceQC and Lawrence Watts, whose handle I can’t remember