Belfast Telegraph

Olding's lawyer urges review into handling of all current sex cases

By Jonathan Bell

The solicitor for Stuart Olding has called for all rape and sexual assault cases awaiting trial to be reviewed.

The call came as it emerged that the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has begun discussions with senior judges - including Patricia Smyth, who presided over proceedings in the rugby rape trial - to examine how cases are handled and any steps that could be taken.

Both Paddy Jackson and Mr Olding were unanimously acquitted of rape following a nine-week trial in Belfast.

Yesterday four groups which help victims of sexual crime took out a full page advert in the Belfast Telegraph urging the public to support a review of the system, and how complainants are treated.

In a statement, the Lord Chief Justice's office said Sir Declan "is aware of the issues raised by the recent high-profile trial".

"He has begun discussions with the trial judge and other senior Crown Court judges to consider whether there are any steps the courts can take that do not require legislation to deal with some of the issues," it added.

Joe Rice, who represents Mr Olding, welcomed the announcement but said there were concerns police and prosecutors were not adequately equipped to handle evidence.

"However, I also take a wider view that all rape and serious sexual assault cases currently awaiting trial should now be reviewed in Northern Ireland," Mr Rice added.

"I would like to see a review of the work of the PSNI and its Sexual Crimes Unit in relation to these cases, which could be extended to encompass how our Public Prosecution Service deals with and reviews the evidence that it is provided with by investigating police.

"Defence solicitors have genuine concerns that police and prosecutors may not have the necessary systems or resources to get to grips with the way they handle evidence and especially electronic evidence."

Mr Rice said there were concerns potential key information for cases, taken from mobile phones, computers and social media, is not being properly interrogated or kept under "sufficient review" by police and prosecutors.

"There has to be an improvement plan to tackle these new 21st century societal developments," argued Mr Rice.

"This should include reviewing training, developing specialist disclosure experts in every police force and providing all multi-media evidence to the defence digitally.

"Any review could include the above as well as anonymity for defendants, jury procedures, victims' rights, etc.

"Change in our society, such as the rapidly increasing use of social media, mobile phone messaging, brings challenges that all parts of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland, which despite resourcing problems, have to deal with sooner rather than later."

Belfast Telegraph

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