We are not arguing for victim-survivors to be given party status in legal proceedings.
Providing rights to oppose evidence does change the legal status of complainants and “need not compromise the substantive rights of the accused. It is not a zero-sum game, where additional rights for complainers can only be gained at the expense of a fair trial for the accused” (Raitt, 2010, p.54).
All of the practitioners and stakeholders interviewed in our evaluation research were clear that the provision of legal advocates had no negative impact on the accused’s right to a fair trial.
In other adversarial jurisdictions, including some of our closest neighbours e.g. the Republic of Ireland, legal representatives can contribute to sexual history and/or disclosure hearings without being challenged under criminal procedure rules that are comparable to those in England and Wales. In fact, the Republic of Ireland has safeguards for defendants via both fair trial rights and constitutional protections (making them more robust than the safeguards in England and Wales), so we can be confident that concerns of coaching are easily addressed.
International evidence has also demonstrated that strengthening complainants’ rights had not weakened defendants’ rights or caused imbalance and shows that independent legal representation is exercised within an adversarial paradigm and against the high standards of the right to a fair trial.
There is nothing sinister in ensuring the proper administration of justice and our evaluation research showed that this can be achieved in England and Wales without breaching the due process rights of the accused.