Irish Courts’ Treatment of Referrals in Supervised Rape Trials

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Irish courts are considering bringing writers of reference letters in sex crimes trials to court to be cross-examined. With the use of character references an integral part of Irish criminal trials on conviction, there have been new calls to change the system to make proceedings easier for victims of sex crimes, the Journal.ie reports. The purpose of remands, which are submitted to a court after a verdict, is to potentially reduce the sentence a judge will hand down for the crime committed. Since character references are not submitted under oath, referees have no legal obligation to be honest and the prosecution cannot question them. Therefore, there is no way for them to be tested in the same way as the victims themselves are in a trial.

Character reference letters are allowed for sentencing in the United States, but the prosecution does not cross-examine writers. Advocates say victims of sex crimes may find it intimidating that prominent people in their community send letters in support of the person they have accused. Hearing referrals to court can also erode the sense of vindication a victim gets when a conviction is handed down. However, others warn that changing the practice could have wider implications for the Irish criminal justice system and could impact the courts’ ability to process cases.

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