HC Deb 21 July 1997 vol 298 cc389-90W
Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to review(a) the law of consent regarding rape and (b) the use of the victim's sexual history in rape trials. [8801]

Mr. Michael

[holding answer 16 July 1997]: We are very concerned to ensure that the law on rape is effective in punishing and deterring crime and fair to victims. We have in the past laid down amendments aimed at reforming the law in this area and this remains our commitment. We have a number of competing priorities in this parliamentary Session and will need to look carefully as to when we could deal with this issue.

The law on consent in respect of rape, or the use of the sexual history of victims, is provided for in the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976. Under that Act, no question may be asked about, or evidence adduced of, the complainant's previous sexual history with anybody except the defendant without the leave of the trial judge. A judge should grant leave only if he is satisfied that it would be unfair to the defendant to refuse to do so.

We will continue to examine how the law is applied. A Home Office research study into the process of rape cases is seeking to identify what factors influence whether a recorded rape leads to a conviction. Among the factors under examination are the use of the victim's sexual history in court and the importance of corroborative evidence where consent is disputed.