Belfast Telegraph

Stuart Olding solicitor calls for rape case review as Lord Chief Justice begins discussions on rape trial issues

By Jonathan Bell

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

It comes as the Lord Chief Justice has begun discussions with senior judges, including Judge 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 Stuart Olding were unanimously acquitted of rape following a nine-week trial in Belfast.

On Tuesday four groups which help victims of sexual crime took out a full page advert in the Belfast Telegraph urging members of the public to get behind them to push for a review of the system, taking account of the experiences of victims.

There have been calls for a review of how allegations of serious sexual assault are handled through the courts.

In a statement the Lord Chief Justice Office said: "The Lord Chief Justice 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.”

Joe Rice, who represents Stuart 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 said.

"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," continued 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 Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph