Rape trial woman heads for Europe in bid to change law

The rape victim who was cross-examined for six days by her attacker is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to alter the law.

Julia Mason, who renounced her anonymity to publicise her cross-examination ordeal, has lodged an application to the court.

Under current law, defendants have the right to represent themselves in court and can cross-examine alleged victims. The only exception to this applies to defendants in child abuse cases who may not cross-examine their alleged victims.

Ruth Harvey, of Sheridans, and barrister Peter Duffy, of Essex Court Chambers, are representing Mason in the appeal. They will argue that the law is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights because it results in inhuman and degrading treatment, discrimination and a violation of the right to privacy.

“Julia Mason has universal backing,” said Harvey. “This case was something everyone was appalled by.”

Mason hopes her case will bring about a change in the law so judges are given discretion to require a defendant to be represented at trial.

In a case earlier this year the court held that victims' and witnesses' rights are protected by the convention.

It ruled that member states should “organise their criminal proceedings in such a way that those interests are not unjustifiably imperilled”.