Defense of honest belief in the consent of a Victim

By February 2, 2017 No Comments

Following the approval of a Government Memo on the definition of consent to a sexual act, Independent Minister Katherine Zappone has secured Government agreement to review the defence of honest belief that consent was given in rape cases.

This is when an accused can and must be acquitted of rape if he can persuade a jury and the court that he honestly believed consent existed, no matter how mistaken or illogical that belief. The Law Reform Commission will examine ending the practice of accepting a defence of honest belief alone.

Speaking following the Cabinet decision Minister Zappone said:

“The defence of honest belief in the consent of a victim, no matter how unreasonable, is out dated.We now have an opportunity to introduce in law the need for those accused of rape to demonstrate an element of reasonableness in relying on the defence of honest belief.The current practice allows the accused to continue their illogical process of forming beliefs and risks them engaging in the same behaviour again. Now we have an opportunity to modernise our laws and introduce a long overdue victim centred approach.Following today’s cabinet decision the Law Reform Commission will be requested to produce a definitive, balanced and reasonable assessment which I hope will lead to a draft bill before the end of the year.”

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