Saturday, March 10, 2007

Recent rape cases leave me wondering.....

Rape is often a crime that occurs with no witnesses. So when it comes to trial its typically his word versus hers. A jury has to decided who is more believable. Especially in historical rape cases where there is nolonger any physical evidence.
So the defendents lawyer is allowed to bring up behaviours from the womens past. Talk about her previous sex life, "Isn't it true that you have previously engaged in group sex" and make all kinds of assignations on her character. Her entire past can be laid out for the media and the jury to see.

So it seems strange to me that the prosecuter is not allowed to do the same. As days pass since the lastest police rape case more and more evidence is surfacing that the jury was NOT allowed to hear.

I sat on a jury once. Its was for an assault case. There were several charges against the man in question. There were no other witnesses apart from the victim. we had to deicide who to believe solely based on what the lawyers managed to get out of the the two men. The jury agreed on a guilty verdict on the lesser charge. Which was something like "reckless behavior causing injury" the more serious charge was "intent to cause grievous bodily harm". Once we had read our verdict the judge commented on the mans previous convictions for assault. Some quite serious. The man had a very violent past. A history or pattern of violent behaviour. Now looking back on the trial this man was probably guilty of the more serious charge, but he was a smooth talker. He dressed well in court and had all the right answers. So this combined with the lack of witnesses meant that sometimes we took his word over the victims.

How relevant are previous convictions? If a man on trial has portrays himself as a family man, active in church groups and charity in the court, but after the trial it comes out that he has 4 previous sexual assault convictions I think it would leave the jury with a pretty bad taste in their mouths. After all they've just been feed a truck load of sh*t during the trial.

However if you are on trial for fraud, does the court need to hear about your arrest for drunk driving? I would say no, but if you have previous charges for theft and fraud then yes, I think they should be heard in court.

Review of conviction secrecy - Herald article

200 complaints to police sex inquiry

Taken from the Herald website, written by L. Cleave.


The commission of inquiry into police conduct was flooded with up to 200 complaints of rape and sexual assaults by police that will never be publicly aired.

The commission is due to report its findings at the end of the month but one of the women who sparked the inquiry says it was shut down from the beginning.

The $3.6 million inquiry was set up in February 2004 to explore police handling of allegations of sex offending against their own and was supposed to take nine months.

It was prompted by allegations by Louise Nicholas and Judith Garrett of historical sex offending.

Announcing the inquiry, Prime Minister Helen Clark said several women had made similar complaints. "It is important that these ... are thoroughly investigated."

However, Mrs Nicholas and Mrs Garrett were excluded from taking part in the inquiry after the commission separated its work from police investigations.

The inquiry was put on hold for 10 months. When it resumed the Government directed the commission to carry out investigations in private and make its findings "of a more general nature".

The report is expected to focus on policy and procedure and will not include findings on individual complaints.

Mrs Garrett said the inquiry should have been "short and transparent" and had failed her.

"The commission of inquiry was prevented from doing its job by the police opening criminal investigations of such a historic nature that they must have known they were going to fail," she said.

"Whoever thought of it, it was a clever move. It appeared to be doing something for the raped women in setting up a commission of inquiry and then within a fortnight ... the most serious complaints were rendered impossible for the commission to look at."

The commission has refused to answer questions about the inquiry, but the Weekend Herald understands it was inundated with complaints, most from women.

It did not refer any of the 200 cases to police investigating historical allegations.

"That wasn't part of the terms of reference," a spokesman said.

Details of the inquiry are likely never to surface, with transcripts kept secret and all evidence presented covered by confidentiality orders that are not subject to the Official Information Act.

An Auckland psychotherapist who contacted the commission with her case has heard nothing from the inquiry since August 2004.

She did not know what to expect from the report.

"I hope the commission does highlight the violent culture that has been endemic in the police for many, many years," she said this week. "Women got raped and men got beaten up and sadly this is not uncommon.

"My hope is by bringing this to light that there can be a shift in police culture so it is healthier, it is less sexist, less racist, less violent."