In light of the Family Judge Tolson case, whereby a leadership judge declared outdated views around sexual consent, a letter has been signed by 130 professionals and lawyers raising concerns that courts aren’t safe for victims- with outdated views on consent and sexual violence.

This came off the backlash from Judge Tolson, who rules that since a victim didn’t take any physical steps to stop her partner from assaulting her, it didn’t constitute rape. The decision was overturned in the high court.

Training is not enough

The signed letter raises concerns that training alone will not fix the problem. The letter reads:

Other family judges hold similar ‘outdated’ views. There are wider systemic issues including lack of understanding of domestic abuse and serious sexual assault, and a failure to apply the practice directions to afford victims a fair trial. This is despite training and clear rules. It leaves children and women at risk of serious harm and undermines the credibility of our legal system. The courts are no longer seen as a safe place for women who have been abused.

The letter demands specialist training for all family law judges, in cases involving sexual assault and domestic abuse: how perpetrators and victims present when giving evidence, the meaning of free will and consent, and how to identify all forms of abuse.

The training is to be delivered electronically from May 2020, and will be included in every training course for the family judiciary from now on.

For more information see our related rape overview blog post, which delves into the Judge Tolson case and common rape myths in society.

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