Justice minister hits back at Charlotte Proudman’s criticism of court procedure for rape victims

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By CJ McKinney on


MoJ’s David Wolfson rebuts Goldsmith barrister’s tweet, which stated that rape victims ‘sit alone, isolated, unable to see what is happening in court’

David Wolfson and Charlotte Proudman

A government minister has taken to Twitter to tackle what he describes as “inaccurate” claims about the treatment of rape victims in court.

David Wolfson QC said the allegation that complainants are “isolated” behind screens in court “falls somewhere on the spectrum between misleading and wrong”.

The original tweet, by Dr Charlotte Proudman of Goldsmith Chambers, said that “Victims of rape are put behind screens & curtains in court to protect them from abusers. They sit alone, isolated, unable to see what is happening in court”.

“Meanwhile the abuser sits in court as a ‘normal party’, they can see everything. Let’s put them behind screens shall we,” Proudman added.

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Criminal barristers leapt in to say that complainants who choose to give evidence behind a screen so that they don’t have to look at their alleged rapist can still see the judge, jury and barrister asking them questions.

Wolfson tweeted: “This falls somewhere on the spectrum between misleading and wrong It falls right in the middle of ‘please don’t tweet inaccurate information about such an important issue’. I’m always happy to discuss ways to improve the court system. But let’s cut the hyperbole. #RuleofLaw”

Iain Watkinson, a detective, tweeted: “Special measures apply to any victim/witness with their agreement if it’s likely to assist them in giving evidence. They see the barristers, jury & judge but not the defendant which is the main idea of the screens”.

But not everyone agreed with Wolfson’s response, with Natalie Page, a campaigner and advocate for women affected by abuse, tweeting: “It’s not ‘hyperbole’ to suggest that special measures impede victims full participation in justice. Recently an abuse victim was allowed special measures to give evidence, but if she wanted to hear the whole case then she had to sit unprotected in the public gallery.”

Proudman told Legal Cheek: “Lord Wolfson seems vexed by a barrister and campaigner speaking up about victims’ experiences of the court process. We urgently need to recognise how hostile our criminal and family justice system can be to vulnerable complainants and what can be done to change that.”

She continued:

“There are perilously low rates of convictions, 40% of rape complainants withdraw complaints and victims in the family court describe being re-traumatised by the system. Rather than dismissing concerns as ‘hyperbole’, I hope government ministers can utilise their time better than on Twitter and change the broken family and criminal justice system.”

Wolfson didn’t responded to our requests for comment.

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