The project has been born out of a lifetime of frustration at the conviction rate for rape in the UK being so consistently alarmingly low. Having delivered workshops to corporates on the ramifications and consequences of sexual harassment at work, there appears to be greater chance of recourse for this than if you were a victim of rape going through the judicial system.
Our approach in having Defence Barristers and survivors of sexual violence as Trustees and on our Advisory Board, is because we believe that by bringing both parties together there is more chance of actual workable practical solutions for change. Our Defence Barrister whom work with us openly talks about how easy it is to dismantle a rape case, after all you only need to plant a seed of doubt.
We are asking the bold question can a Barrister win a case for a Defendant without using rape myths to dismantle a case? Our Barristers so far have said:
Some myth usage could be reduced – there is a reliance on certain ones. For a fair trial you must ask certain questions to be an advocate for your client but there is a usage of irrelevant questions.There needs to be examples of best practice and disseminated to all chambers, on how to use less myths/not over play them.There is no training when you are preparing to join the bar on what rape myths and facts are and their impact on the complaints/juries listening.There is no Unconscious Bias training for Barristers, who may hold some myths without knowledge of this.There should be an equivalent of a RASSO list for Defence Barristers.
Our first project we would undertake is a research project (having been granted access by the Bar Council) to find out how all Criminal Defence barristers in rape cases identify their own use of rape myths; how often do they use them, which ones and why? Could they reduce the use and believe they could win and still have a fair trial? We have incredibly strong links with academics who ensure the validity of any questionnaires and research and can assist in setting the project up, alongside evaluation of any projects.
These are difficult questions but ones which must be asked to ensure both Victims and Defendants gain a fair chance at justice.
Our work will further involve:
- Establishing an internal code of conduct for Defence Barristers. Defence Barristers who have defended the accused feel there is an opportunity and appetite for change.
- Ensuring the Prosecution are held accountable for not objecting to rape myths when used by the defence.
- Training all barristers on how trauma makes victims/survivors behave, to reduce the prevalence of PTSD from the use of questioning.
- Running campaigns using Instagram/Tik Tok to change attitudes towards victim blaming.