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Call to look anew at rape 'consent'

Last updated 05:00 27/11/2013

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The Government should take a fresh look at the definition of consent in rape cases in the wake of the Roast Busters sex scandal, Labour says.

Justice Minister Judith Collins yesterday confirmed amendments to make it less traumatic for sex attack victims to give evidence in court would be introduced early next year.

The changes include a requirement for a rape case defendant to give notice - before a trial begins - of intention to use evidence about a victim's sexual history.

Collins intends to amend the Evidence Act, saying it is too easy for the defendant to "ambush" a victim with details of their previous sexual experiences.

However, Labour's justice spokesman, Andrew Little, is calling for an amendment to the definition of consent in the Crimes Act, saying it is still, in part, based on the defendant's perception.

"If we defined ‘consent' in terms only of whether as a matter of fact it was given, we end up requiring the defendant to give evidence about consent and subject them to cross examination, rather than just the victim," he said.

Currently the law requires two things to prove sexual violation - that the accused did not have the person's consent, and did not believe on reasonable grounds that the person was consenting.

Little also wants judges to control the cross-examination of the victim.

Green MP Jan Logie said the law changes were "baby steps".

"The reforms that she has announced, while a positive step, are not going to achieve the change that New Zealanders are crying out for and would not, for example, have made prosecuting the so-called Roast Busters group any more likely," she said.

The changes are based on recommendations from the Law Commission, delivered in March.

The public began demanding changes to the justice system in the wake of the Roast Busters scandal, in which victims were reluctant to come forward.

The Roast Busters are a group of young West Auckland men who claim to have had group sex with drunk, underage girls.

Collins said child witnesses would also give their testimony to a court through a video of their police interview. If this was not possible, they could do so by CCTV or from behind a screen.

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