Sex law overhaul ‘would help victims’

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AN overhaul of the sexual offences law should give victims more ‘courage to come forward’ after a poor conviction rate last year, the Attorney General has said.

Attorney General Robert MacRae

Criticism has been levelled at the current laws for being too soft on sexual offences and for often categorising serious sexual offences as the lesser charge of indecent assault rather than rape.

Home Affairs Minister Kristina Moore has lodged proposals which would make major changes to the law – including seeing more offences classed as rape and increased maximum sentences.

And speaking at a Scrutiny panel hearing this week, Attorney General Robert MacRae said the proposals, coupled with changes to the criminal procedures law, should create a more level playing field for victims of sexual offences.

Panel chairman Deputy Jeremy Maçon said that the charity Jersey Action Against Rape had concerns about the current situation, arguing that 12 rape cases were brought before the court last year with no convictions.

Advocate MacRae said that while he believed there had been at least one conviction last year, the point the charity made was a ‘good one’ and both he and Deputy Moore agreed that convictions in rape cases were low. Both said that they wanted to see a greater conviction rate when cases of serious sexual offending reached trial.

Advocate MacRae added: ‘The whole landscape for a victim of sexual offending will have changed. This has been designed to make sure victims have the courage to come forward and secondly, to make sure they are treated with respect.’

In 2016 he argued in the Royal Court during the case of Jose Avelino Da Costa Cabral – who admitted two counts of indecent assault against a child – that the assaults would have been classified as rape of a child in the UK rather than indecent assault. Cabral was jailed for ten years.

The changes to the sexual offences law are due to debated by the States on Tuesday 20 March.


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