Law Commission reports back

A quick note: The law comission has reported back on its review of whether previous convictions should be disclosed to the jury in some cases.

For those of you not up to speed, this inquiry started in response to the fact that Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum’s previous rape convictions were withheld during his trial.

They’ve decided that the rules should stay the same for now, but fortunately have called for a wider inquiry into the way rape and sexual assualt trials are handled.

I have mixed feelings on this issue- on the one hand, I think generally speaking it’s good that people with previous convictions cannot just be picked up by police and be cast in a highly suspicious light during a trial because of previous crimes. It makes it much more difficult to frame people. On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that in case of crimes that often take a serial nature- like rape, assualt, abuse, and murder- it might actually be quite relevant to the case whether they’ve had a previous conviction for that same crime.

Of course, I am highly pleased to hear Sir Geoffrey Palmer saying the current trial system for rape and sexual assualt victims has “disturbing features”. Recognition of the fact that defense in rape trials often involve accusing the victim rather than establishing alibis and witnesses that protect the defendent is good to hear. Quite seperate from the panic of not being believed is the feeling that going to trial is essentially being sexually attacked again in a different context.

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