A new bill strengthening laws around consent in rape cases will remove more of the ‘ancient defences’ used in Irish courts, according to Noeline Blackwell.
Under the proposal, anyone accused of rape would have to show what steps they took to ensure they have consent for sexual activity.
It means a defendant's claim that they believed they had consent would no longer be enough.
Instead, they would have to convince a jury that their belief they had consent was “objectively reasonable” – and show what measures they took to confirm they had it.
The bill would also remove self-induced intoxication as a defence – meaning defendants no longer be able to claim they thought they had consent because they were drunk.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell said Ireland’s current laws are not strong enough.
She said recent changes to the law are "inching us towards a modern-day system that removes these ancient defences which were all about once the man said [he had consent] and that he was happy with it, then that was OK.”
She said the proposed new legislation deals with “kind of an oddity” in rape law.
“It’s good to see it being proposed to be abolished,” she said.
“It is that, no matter how bizarre a man’s belief was in the consent of the other person, if he could persuade a jury that he honestly believed that consent was there - no matter how odd that was - he would be acquitted, would walk out of court and would be free to do the same thing the next day.
“What this is proposing is that there has to be some sort of reality to a person’s belief that the other person was consenting.
“That there is some way that somebody looking in from the outside or a jury could say yes that belief was reasonable.”
Also on the show, criminal barrister and Fine Gael Senator Barry Ward said the change would mean anyone’s belief they have consent must be “objectively reasonable”.
“Therefore, instead of asking the jury to put themselves in the mind of the potential offender and imagine what he was thinking or believing at that time, they are now being asked to step outside and look at it as a reasonable bystander,” he said.
“They must assess what the defendant is saying on a reasonable basis - an objectively reasonable basis - and say, could that person reasonably have believed what he says he believed at that time?”
He said the changes was recommended by the Law Reform Commission years ago and the Supreme Court has already said that similar changes are “acceptable where they are proportionate to the public interest”.
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