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