witness in sex abuse trial commits suicide after grilling by female QC

(240 Posts)
BobbiFleckmann Fri 08-Feb-13 16:23:59

the violin teacher who was the unwilling prosecution witness against the two Chethams Music School teachers killed herself in the middle of the trial. She told her friend she felt like she'd been raped again after the female defence QC accused her of lying in her evidence. Very, very sad.
My cynical view is that defendants in sex cases go for female barristers because they think it'll give them a veneer of innocence /respectability. I know the woman was "just doing her job" but I'd sure like to hear her views on methods of cross examination in sex abuse trials.

fromparistoberlin Mon 11-Feb-13 15:09:19

this shows why so many people wont go to court

I find it dreadfully upsetting to be honest

her poor family

and I am sure the QC feels pretty shit too, its not her fauly though. Its the overall system

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 16:22:04

having just sat through a rape trial of a close family member I can say every single thing mentioned on this thread happened in this trial.

The child victim and their entire family were subjected to allegations of lying, therapy was advised against, investigation was lacking.

Character assassination of the victim and parents (who were not witnesses and had no opportunity to refute the alegations being levelled against them - the child victim had to try to defend parents).

Furthermore the family is, now the trial is over, being subjected to a barrage of rumours being spread around, ranging from drug dealing to child abuse.

Its a horrendous system that fails and fails and fails again.

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 16:28:49

the defences used are standard practice in rape trials

the defendant has right - the victim has none

it makes me so angry - I would NEVER ever ever report anything of this nature

Spero Mon 11-Feb-13 16:34:36

If your instructions are - this woman is lying. Then you have to cross examine on that basis. It is up to the judge to intervene to stop questions.

If you were accused of something serious, would you expect your barrister to 'go easy' on your accuser in case he or she got upset?

She was offered chance to give evidence behind a screen. I wish she had taken up that offer. From what I have read, some of what upset her was watching the male abuser smirk as she gave evidence.

Domjolly Mon 11-Feb-13 16:37:11

I think any one who blames the QC in qestion is nieve at best

It i was faceing LIFE in jail i will be hiring a rotwiller justice is only so when you have A ROBUST defence and well as prosecution


Its only when we ourslefs are facing jail for a crime we didnt commit we value a good defence

My FIL is a QC when i married my oh and wondered how he could sleep at night

When he told me of a case of a man who has served 15 years in jail due to a weak defence the witness was hardly grilled

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 16:42:42

I'm quite sure far more rapists walk free dom leaving the victim and the victim and their family facing a life sentence.

I agree everyone is entitled to a fair trial - but that should mean everyone - including the victim.

Domjolly Mon 11-Feb-13 16:44:04

She is paid to do her job and she is doing it what diffrance dose it make that she is a woman

Should a black QC not give a robust defence to a white clinent accused of rasicm

I could go on but the implication thats the QC is a women and should not be defending someone who is INNOCENT asccused to rape is just off

And yes i said innocent because in the uk as oppsed to some tin pot rebulics we we are INNCOCENT until proven guitly

Spero Mon 11-Feb-13 16:44:06

I asked a female solicitor how she could defend a rapist that she was pretty convinced was guilty. She said she was going to give him the best defence she could so he would have no chance of appeal when he was convicted - which hope was.

We have to have a system of innocent until proven guilty. You cannot just assume anyone who makes a complain of sexual assault is telling the truth.

I think the system has made enormous strides in past decade. There are dedicated witness support services, evidence behind screens or via video link for eg.

What seems to have gone wrong here was that she got no information about how long whole thing would take or what the questioning was likely to involve.

She should have got much more support for that.

But to blame the lawyer is just wrong. She was doing her job - an entirely necessary and very important job, if you place any value on justice.

Domjolly Mon 11-Feb-13 16:52:04

constantnamechanger no offece but Victims also get the oppatunity to get represented its up to the crow to provide just as tenacious , rotwillers in the pursuit in truth.

There are cases my FIL has lost because there case was stronger or somtimes because there QC Was better or somtimes the defendant crumbles under cross examination by the prosecution


Every one has i mean everyone has the right to a robust defence any one who dosent belive that dose not belive in justice

PUTTING THE WRING PERSON IN JAIL DOSE THE VICTIMS NO GO GOOD IT BRINGS THEM NO PEACE we have to make sure asscuser stands up to surtiney because if not innocent people go to jail for the rest of there lives

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 16:52:08

having seen the very exacting standards required before a case of this nature gets to trial - I would NEVER believe anyone was innocent - they would NEVER be able to sit me on a jury.

And given that it is widely acknowledged that the conviction rates of reported crime of this nature are way too low - most people believe a defendant is guilty regardless of the verdict - doing no-one any favours.

Things may have come on in the last 10 years but the starting point was so low that doesn't really say much.

I ha've been shocked at how appalling the system is for victims, how a defence barrister can accuse the victim and others of anything they like with absolutely no requirement That they have any proof or substantiation of what they are saying.

Many, many rapists and abusers walk free to abuse and rape all over again - in the pursuit of great British justice.

There is very little great British justice for rape survivors - and even less for the vast majority who never even get the change to see the inside of the courtroom.

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 16:55:02

dom the crown is under massive restrictions that do not apply to the defence - for a start the Crown is not allowed to make things up or pluck things out of thin air or change their evidence halfway through a trial the way the defence is.

Have you ever actually sat through a rapetrial?

Miggsie Mon 11-Feb-13 16:59:31

Sadly, the legal system allows barrister to confuse and gaslight their victims (sorry, the witnesses).
Shouting at someone till they break down and are unable to speak is bullying, and the legal system just loves it.

If you saw someone being shouted at or harassed in this way in the street you would be appalled, yet the legal system thrives on it. The barristers are also allowed to call someone a liar - slander in any other environment.

My mother was a witness at the Old Bailey once and the barrister accused her of being an unreliable menopausal woman who was attention seeking and also a fantasist - sadly he didn't realise my mother was not someone to be bullied and she fixed him with a piercing stare and said "young man, I know what happened, I was there."

Not everyone can deal with being shouted at at close range - and I don't think it should be allowed.

Spero Mon 11-Feb-13 17:00:21

The barristers code of conduct is clear - you cannot make malicious or utterly spurious allegations in your questions but equally you have a very clear duty of care to your client and must act on instructions.

If those instructions are - it never happened, she is a liar - what would you have the barrister do? Soft pedal in case witness is upset?

Sadly the very nature of most sexual abuse cases end up on he said/she said basis as there is usually very little evidence to test other than the words of victim and accuser.

If you don't like this system of testing evidence, what other system do you propose?

Spero Mon 11-Feb-13 17:02:03

I am not allowed to shout at people in court. If I did the judge would stop me.

You can put very difficult and probing questions but you cannot shout at a witness. I don't think there is any suggestion the barrister shouted in this case.

Domjolly Mon 11-Feb-13 17:08:06

And its for the proscaution to show the the defences arse if they saying

Yu were just wanting attention you made it up the procasution if you have a good one will come out fighting like mike tyson

I belive the convictions rates are so low in rape cases due to the publics view via the jury its not right that jurys on the whole will be biased its also not right that if you have a black defendant And a majorty white jury sadly weather your likable comes into play all sort of things i dont know what we can do about that

But all people deserve a robust defence No ifs no buts think of all those countrys were you can just be halled into court accused of any old thing now think thank god i dont live there i live in the uk were i could get the best defence possible

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 17:08:11

Spero - I would like to see the defence subjected to the see restrictions as the prosecution.

They should not be allowed to pluck things out of thin air, laws of evidence should apply.

They should not be able to accuse a child victims parents of lying - unless it is to the adults in question.

They should only be allowed to reference things directly relevant.

Etc, etc, etc.

Why for example should the fact a victims mother isn't in a court room at any point in time be dragged up to show she doesn't care (sat outside sobbing but the jury didn't know that).

Until the defence is required to back up their claims with facts and evidence they will be able to continue to slander victims unchecked.

TheSecondComing Mon 11-Feb-13 17:09:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Domjolly Mon 11-Feb-13 17:10:05

Spero all that anyone else can perpose is that anyone who accuses anyone else of a sexual crime should just be belived should not be challanged

Whoch to me is mad

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 17:11:18

Dom - you didn't answer me - have you ever sat through a rape trial and seen what victims are subjected to?

And I meant to say the reason that victims are advised not to go to counselling or therapy is the therapist can be accused of leading them.

Plus the records are disclosable - which means you wouldn't much feel safe speaking.

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 17:14:14

dom - if your house was burgled - would you expect to be put on the stand and have to prove it was burgled?

would you expect your life, your husband's and possibly your children's lives examined - your school and work history examined, and theirs.

Your financial standing??

All this to prove you have been burgled in the first place.

Spero Mon 11-Feb-13 17:14:50

Sorry, I haven't done crime in a while, but the last time I was involved in criminal cases the defence were to allowed just to pluck things out of the air at the last minute. Ay defence of alibi for eg had to be given in advance.

All participants in court hearing lbs are subject to rules about what evidence can be adduced.

But I thought the problem complained about here was that the defence barrister accused witness of lying. That was the defence. What else can the barrister do?

Of course the witnesses should have been talked through the process. I thought that was standard now. Did she refuse to talk to anyone, in same way she refused screens?

constantnamechanger Mon 11-Feb-13 17:15:39

actually dom - we were advised that juries ha've a problem convicting young white males with good jobs - they are too scared of being wrong

I'm so torn by this sad

On the one hand the defence was doing her job.
On the other it is a terrible thing to do to a vulnerable victim.

As for the sex of the QC, I don't know about QC's but when it comes to juries I've heard that defence lawyers for accused rapists hope for a predominantly female jury as they tend to judge the alleged victims much more. sad I suspect it has something to do with wanting to blame the victim as then they don't have to admit it could happen to them, they don't want to admit that you can't avoid the risk.

Spero Mon 11-Feb-13 17:17:07

But constant - what are you saying ? That anyone can go to court and say 'I was raped' and that's the end to it? No questions, no testing?

That's slightly dangerous isn't it?

TheSecondComing Mon 11-Feb-13 17:17:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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