A teenage boy in Ireland rape case claims gender bias in law
A teenage boy charged with statutory rape is to challenge the controversial law in the High Court on the grounds it discriminates against him because he is male.
The 17-year-old from Donegal has been charged with the statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl on August 5, 2006, when he was aged 15.
A case will now go to the High Court where it will be claimed the boy is the victim of discrimination, as the law he is charged under unfairly grants the girl immunity from prosecution despite having had sex with him.
The Government introduced this caveat to prevent the criminalisation of teenage pregnancies.
But this case will require the Government to convince the High Court that the discriminatory protection granted to underage girls is justified.
This clause was first introduced in the emergency criminal justice act passed in June 2006 to plug the loophole identified by the Mr C case.
On this occasion a man had his conviction quashed because he was not allowed to defend himself on the grounds he made an honest mistake about the girl’s age — this led to the temporary release of other confessed child rapists.
Since then the Government has rejected a chorus of demands to repeal the discriminatory clause. These have come from victims groups, legal experts, the Ombudsman for Children and the joint Oireachtas committee on child protection.
The Government’s constant assertion that it can justify the discrimination will now be put to the test by the Donegal teenager.
His lawyers have prepared a case, citing the state, the attorney-general and the director of public prosecutions as defendants.
It will specifically challenge the statutory rape law, which differs from other sexual offences because it creates the crime of having sex with a person before they reach the age of consent — even if they were a willing partner.
The team will argue that, among other issues, the 2006 act breaches article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits gender discrimination.
The 17-year-old has already been charged at a district court in Donegal and has been sent to trial at the Circuit Criminal Court.
This has yet to take place and the High Court action will seek an order delaying the trial until his challenge is decided.
The teenager is accused of having sexual intercourse with a girl who was under the age of consent on August 5, 2006.
He is also accused of committing buggery on the same day and faces a prison term of up to five years if convicted.
The teenager’s legal team is also planning to argue his prosecution breaches article 8 of the European Convention as it denies his right to a private life.
Last night, director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland Fiona Neary said the case raises serious questions about the laws protecting children.
“This case puts the spotlight on the complexities surrounding child protection in Ireland, especially concerning teenagers as they emerge into their sexuality. The High Court must now decide if this is possible under the terms of the constitutional right to non-discrimination by gender,” she said.
Call for end to TD lobbying in rape cases
The Labour Party has said it is open to introducing guidelines on the circumstances in which its elected representatives can write letters on behalf of those facing criminal charges.