Defendant dilemma

Rape victim Julia Mason's ordeal in court last week at the hands of her attacker has put the spotlight on a defendant's right to self-representation. The case illustrates the dilemma when the rights of the defendant and the rights of the victim conflict.

It is an issue already tackled in the case of victims of violent offences under the age of 14 and victims of sexual offences under 17 whom defendants cannot cross-examine in person.

But the question posed by last week's events is should women have the same protection? There are many who believe so. However, there are no simple answers. Defendants also have rights and must be allowed to exercise them. Instead of looking to restrict the rights of defendants to self-representation, perhaps it is time to re-examine the way courts deal with sexual offences as a whole.