Anger as lawyer cites dress of sex victim, 15

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AN MSP has called for action to be taken against a lawyer who told a court a young sexual assault victim had been "behaving as if she was over 16".

She also called for a change in the law to prevent such comments in court.

Roseanna Cunnigham said the lawyer who defended Rikki Tainsch, who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl, acted in an "appalling manner".

Iain Smith had told the court: "I don't think it is fair to say this was a very vulnerable person. There was a suggestion the girl had been sexually active before.

"The complainer was wearing shorts, black boots and a white top. She was trying to dress older than her years. She behaved as if she was over 16."

Now Ms Cunningham, SNP member for Perth and a former lawyer, is demanding the Scottish Parliament changes the law to prevent defence lawyers arguing victims of sexual assault are to blame for their ordeal.

She said: "I was utterly appalled to read of the arguments used by the defence lawyer in this case. Sadly, however, I am not surprised.

"This case underlines much of what is wrong with the way in which our legal system deals with rape and sexual offences.

"To use as mitigation the way in which a 15-year-old girl was dressed or to question her sexual history should be absolutely unacceptable.

"The victim was under 16 and that makes her vulnerable. There should have been no question about that.

"No wonder so many victims of sexual crimes are unwilling to report their experiences to the police if this is the sort of treatment they can expect, should the case come to trial."

She said she would be writing to the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor General, the Justice Minister and the Law Society of Scotland to find out "what action will or can be taken both against the lawyer in question and to stop the use of this sort of defence in court in the future".

"There can be no excuse for rape or sexual assault," she said. "The law must recognise that."

Ms Cunningham lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday condemning Mr Smith's comments.

She added: "The Scottish Parliament can change legislation and this is what I'm aiming for. This week we heard Elish Angiloini, Lord Advocate, condemn Scotland's low conviction rates on rape and saw Rape Crisis launch a campaign to change perceptions. Yet why should we expect the public to change their attitudes when lawyers get away with this sort of comment?"

Tainsch, 24, who appeared at Perth Sheriff Court on Wednesday, said he had been cruising the streets in his car with two friends when he spotted what he said was a scantily-dressed girl doing a pole-dance.

After picking her up he took her back to his flat where he plied her with vodka and Irn-Bru before sexually assaulting her as she lay drunk on his bed.

Sheriff Lindsay Foulis imposed a three-year probation order on Tainsch and placed him on the Sex Offenders Register.

He was also ordered to carry out 275 hours' unpaid community work and told to attend the Tay Project rehabilitation course for sex offenders.

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