25 Sep 2008

Nicholas calls for sweeping court changes

8:15 pm on 25 September 2008

The woman whose allegations of police rapes sparked an inquiry into police conduct says the right to silence should be abolished for anyone accused of sex crimes.

Louise Nicholas told a conference on sexual violence it would make trials more fair. However, the Government is considering more limited changes.

Ms Nicholas is now a policy advocate for Rape Prevention Education - an arm of Rape Crisis Auckland.

She wants a separate court for sex crimes and says defence lawyers - like prosecutors - should have to disclose their witnesses and evidence before a trial.

The accused would be required to testify and - like complainants - be cross-examined about their sexual history.

The minister of justice and police, Annette King, says specialist prosecution units are being looked at, along with changes to laws covering consent and the questioning of complainants.

However, Ms King says caution is needed before discarding defendants' rights, which have been in place for centuries.