These Victorian students have taken to Youth Parliament to call for rape trial reform

These Victorian students have taken to Youth Parliament to call for rape trial reform

Victorian secondary students have joined the push for rape trial reform, taking to YMCA Youth Parliament to call for court system review.

A bill titled ‘Rape Trial Reform’, was introduced at Youth Parliament and calls for further measures be introduced to protect the emotional wellbeing of victims of rape during court proceedings.

For more than 30 years Youth Parliament has been a fixture of the political landscape in Victoria; more than 25 bills first passed at Youth Parliament have gone on to become state legislation.

Designed by six teenagers from Westbourne Grammar (pictured above), the bill also aims to increase the rate of rape trials that result in a conviction.

Bill sponsor and Westbourne Grammar student Tasha Gactuan said the tiny conviction rate for rape trails in Victoria was a “shocking act of negligence by the Victorian justice system.” A study of the 3,500 rapes reported to Victoria police in 2009 and 2010 found just 3% resulted in a court conviction.

“This terrifying number tells us that the justice system as it stands today is not doing enough.

“Our current approaches simply cannot to be said to be working, but with this bill we can make concrete changes to rape trials within our legal system.”

Other proposed reforms in the bill include state-funded counselling services for victims of rape, overhauling unreasonable cross-examination tactics and imposing harsher sentences for rape convictions.

A clause of the bill that seeks to have the trial jury made aware of prior convictions of the accused was the biggest source of contention during debate but didn’t block the bills approval.

The Rape Trial Reform Bill will be one of several to be debated and passed at Youth Parliament that will now be passed on to Minister for Youth Jenny Mikakos.

Reported crime statistics highlighting the disparity between the number of sexual assaults occurring in Victoria and how many of those result in conviction instigated the bills introduction to Youth Parliament. 

Crime Statistics Agency data reveals of the 7788 sexual assault victim reports filed in the 12 months to March 31 this year, 79.9 per cent of those were by women.

Westbourne Grammar team member Eleni Moritz said she hoped when State Ministers look at bill they realise it’s something we need to fix.

“We’ve just proved that this is something that young people care about,” she said.

“We are the upcoming generation and we don’t want to live in a society that’s like this – we want to improve it.”

In its 32nd year, the YMCA Youth Parliament program sees young people aged between 16 and 25 design a piece of legislation, or bill, on an issue they are passionate about which is tabled and debated before a parliament of their fellow young Victorians.

Pic above supplied by author: L-R (back) Gianluca Vavala, Giselle Puno, Eleni Moritz, Kane Arnold, (front) Tasha Gacutan and Shams Albrefkany.

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