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When the complainant’s character might not play well in court

In cases that lack any other type of evidence and boil down to one person’s word against another’s the ‘character’ of the complainant and the defendant can often dominate the case. This is unfortunate because there isn’t a ‘type’ of person who can be held responsible for their rape and there isn’t a ‘type’ of person who should be considered exempt from the possibility of committing a rape. The reality is that very well liked and apparently kind people can still commit sex offences and disliked and otherwise unsavoury people can be victims of these crimes. Similarly there is nothing you could tell me about someone’s character that would make me certain that they are/are not telling the truth in court. Everyone is capable of lying in court and everyone is capable of telling the truth.

So don’t make your cases about character. Defend the complainant’s right to privacy if possible but at the end of the day be open about everything because your case is not about ‘the type of person the complainant is’. Your case is about consent.

You can flip any attacks on the victim’s character on their head by helping the jury consider how a sex offender who wants to get away with their crime will commit their offence. It’s possible that the very aspects of the victim’s character that you are concerned about would be appealing to a sex offender who wanted to avoid being caught and punished. Drug use, previous criminal history, previous unsubstantiated reports of rape, evidence of a chaotic lifestyle, or prostitution could reassure a sex offender that the person they have selected as a victim might not be believed if they report the crime to the police.

Posted in Criminal Justice Professionals.