Rape accuser's underwear examined in court before man acquitted in Ireland

"You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Rape accuser's underwear examined in court before man acquitted in Ireland - NewsMavens
Central Court in Cork, Ireland, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

A barrister representing a man acquitted of raping a teenager in Ireland told jurors at Cork's Central Criminal Court to reflect on the underwear worn by the 17-year-old complainant on the night of the alleged incident.

After deliberating for an hour and a half, the jury of eight men and four women reached a unanimous verdict on November 5 that the 27-year-old was not guilty. The man denied the charges.

In the case that was heavily dominated by the issue of consent, the defendant's council, Ms Elizabeth O’Connell SC, said to jurors:

“Does the evidence out-rule the possibility that she was attracted to the defendant and was open to meeting someone and being with someone? You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”

What if the woman was wearing high-waisted, plain underwear? Would the jury have judged the case differently? A serious evaluation is needed of the purpose of analyzing a women's underwear in a rape case. Because if sexual assault can occur regardless of what type of underwear a woman is wearing, a particular style cannot determine whether there was consent or not.

Details from the story:

  • A 27-year-old man was acquitted of rape in Central Criminal Court in Cork, Ireland.
  • The jury of eight men and four women took one and a half hours of deliberation to reach their unanimous verdict on Monday November 5.
  • The case was dominated by the issue of consent. While the defendant made the case that the woman consented to sex with him, the woman denied that she had consented.
  • He denied claims that he had raped the 17-year-old in a public place.
  • Meanwhile, the claimant said the man "dragged" her 30 metres to the spot where the alleged rape occurred.
  • Dublin Rape Crisis Centre CEO Noeline Blackwell said she wasn't surprised this language of was used. "All of these things are rape stereotypes that are used by defendants to plant a doubt in the minds of a jury taking away from the law which is that sex without consent is a crime."
  • This isn't the only example of a plaintiff's underwear or choices of clothing being analysed during a sexual assault trial. The woman at the centre of the Belfast rape trial, the prominent case in Northern Ireland in which four defendants were cleared of rape charges, had her clothing including the underwear she was wearing that night shown to the jury.
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