The executive director of the abuse support group One in Four has welcomed the recommendations contained in the Gillen Review which calls for the banning of the public from rape trials in Northern Ireland.
Maeve Lewis told Newstalk Breakfast that Sir John Gillen’s review also addressed the serious issue of the use of social media particularly by jurors.
She said there needs to be an education policy for jurors to teach them about the myths around rape and consent so that they will not be biased by details such as how a woman was dressed.
The Gillen Review, which commenced in May last year, is an independent review of how courts are set up to deliver justice in serious sexual offence cases.
A former Lord Justice of Appeal, the Right Honourable Sir John Gillen, led the review, supported by an advisory panel.
It was ordered in the wake of concerns surrounding the handling of the nine-week Belfast rape trial last year, in which professional rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were acquitted of rape.
“To think that any Joe Soap could walk into a court and listen to someone being put through that experience is dreadful,” said Ms Lewis.
A rape trial was an incredibly humiliating experience and it was not easy for a complainant to be cross-examined “and grilled about every aspect of their life.”
She said she had heard of people from around the country travelling to Belfast to attend the Jackson/Olding trial. She described such actions as “ghoulish” and wondered about their need “to listen to prurient details.”
The issue of how to control the use of social media by the public and jurors was a great concern, she added and she was glad that the Gillen Review had highlighted the issue.