‘The courtroom is not in shape for purpose’: the tricky truths guiding sexual assault drama Prima Facie | Theatre

Suzie Miller: The enjoy commenced as a seed when I was at law faculty, many several years back, finding out criminal legislation. I was on the lookout at how the process will work, and considering that something about the way sexual assault is managed in just it doesn’t in good shape the bill. It is pretty much impossible to basically operate a sexual assault scenario and earn it.

Kate Parker: I protect and prosecute sexual intercourse cases. When you glimpse at the data it’s clearly not doing the job and I locate it irritating how it is performed like a recreation in court docket. It is not about obtaining at the real truth but a type of lawful truth, which I believe the engage in captures. There are victims at the coronary heart of this who are not receiving justice. The participate in is partnering with my charity, Universities Consent Undertaking, which is about sending attorneys into schools and educating young persons about sexual offences and consent, attempting slowly and gradually, just one classroom at a time, to alter sights.

Jodie Comer: What blew me away when I browse Suzie’s script was the journey that Tessa goes on – the woman you meet up with at the start of the participate in is extremely various by the close. Everything that she’s focused her lifestyle to and believed in is form of thrown in the air and she’s compelled to re-evaluate every little thing.

Emily Maitlis: Clair, you are at the chopping edge of what it indicates to in fact prosecute sexual assault. You will see these situations, 7 days in week out.

Clair Kelland: It is so critical that victims of sexual violence are handled in the right way and they are listened to and respected. Tessa isn’t. It’s anything that we’re actually making an attempt to modify. With the concerns of consent and the way that victims are believed or not thought and supported by means of that approach, it really struck a chord with me.

EM: Jodie, inform us how the participate in commences and give us a perception of Tessa’s self confidence and ebullience.

JC: Tessa is generally knowledgeable of what is going on in the room and how to manoeuvre. She’s incredibly smart, exceptionally witty. As a barrister you see her manipulating the courtroom in a way, on the phase, which we’re variety of figuring out with the physicality and the set layout, which has been entertaining. When you move into a courtroom, you perform a job – that’s some thing that we’re discovering.

‘The better group are inclined to not believe that women’ … Suzie Miller in rehearsals. Photograph: Helen Murray

SM: Jodie’s definitely found the humour, in the initially scenes, in particular, in which there are moments of her sharing a sort of solution inside of awareness of courtroom. We have seen Rumpole of the Bailey and diverse lawyers on tv. But this is a woman dealing with being a barrister and the kind of luxury and joy of taking part in with words and performance, which Kate does every single day, in her true lifestyle.

EM: Kate, do you get a thrill from convey in court docket?

KP: Jury advocacy is pretty addictive. In the play, Tessa spots some thing in the quick and it is like a lightbulb: “Aha, this is where by they’re likely to vacation up in their cross-evaluation!” That felt accurate to lifetime.

EM: Clair, your earth is streets apart from any perception of a functionality or sport.

CK: We have to be aim as law enforcement officers but in terms of investigation we’re certainly contemplating the effect in entrance of the jury. We variety of get to know how it’s going to play out in court, but what we just can’t do is second-guess the determination the Crown Prosecution Provider is heading to make in phrases of charging, mainly because if we do it is a disservice to the victim. It is not for us to make that final decision. We just have to existing the proof in the greatest achievable way.

EM: Suzie, the play asks a little something horrendously profound: is sexual assault illegal? Which sounds like a ridiculous matter to say it but if it’s really not often prosecuted, if the instances in no way get as a result of, if the conviction fees are really small …

SM: You have to be ready to demonstrate it outside of acceptable doubt. With sexual assault it is often a “he mentioned, she said” state of affairs since it is typically a guy and a girl. Victims are led to imagine that this is their opportunity to be considered. And, of class, the typical is so superior that it is not possible to establish that, over and above a sensible doubt. They then walk away likely “no a single thought me”. Now it is actually that they weren’t considered “beyond a realistic doubt”. So it is just about like the discussion board of the court is not healthy for purpose for sexual assault. We put this particular person on demo by themselves and cross-look at them alternatively than tests no matter if the other particular person did something incorrect.

Jodie Comer, right, talks to director Justin Martin in the rehearsal room.
Jodie Comer, correct, talks to director Justin Martin in the rehearsal place. Photograph: Helen Murray

CK: Most of these offences transpire within a marriage or within a personal location. When you assume of crime in general, you have received CCTV or witnesses. There’s none of that supporting proof, which is why it’s actually significant that we appear at the full story. For case in point, if it’s an acquaintance sexual assault, or inside the domestic romantic relationship, we want to search at that romantic relationship and not just the incident by itself, mainly because it’s the only criminal offense the place we are questioning the victim’s behaviour and completely defence legal professionals glance at the victim’s trustworthiness. So, was she drinking? Why did she invite him back again for espresso? Why did she dress in that? Why did she say that? Why didn’t she scream? Why has she obtained no bodily accidents? It’s definitely complicated since it is one term against the other. And I assume the process needs to concentration on the conduct of the perpetrator and not the conduct of the target. So say it’s an acquaintance rape, where by they’ve satisfied in a nightclub. Ordinarily the way that the officers would set their circumstance papers in would be: “The victim attended this nightclub, has 10 vodka and cokes, was drunk, achieved the suspect, invited him back again for coffee, he raped her.” In its place, it ought to be: “The perpetrator attended this location, we can see him on CCTV approaching other woman who show up to be susceptible and making an attempt to have interaction them in dialogue.” Then you are focusing on his conduct rather than victims’ credibility, for the reason that unquestionably she’s allowed to go out and get drunk with mates, she’s permitted to invite him back for a coffee, but that doesn’t, in my view, undermine the difficulty of consent. But it does in a court docket of legislation, simply because there is so substantially target on her behaviour top up to that instant.

SM: The jury procedure is reflective of the increased community. So, the greater community are likely to not consider women of all ages, even other women of all ages. It’s due to the fact we have all been skilled from a genuinely paternalistic, patriarchal system that states: “Men do these things and it is Ok.” I also feel we’re so stunned that it could take place to any of us that you feel “no, no, no, there has to be a rationale why it’s not going to come about to me”. So “I wouldn’t have worn that” or “I would not have drunk that much” or whatsoever. But I consider as a entire, we’ve experienced generations of men going “you cannot rape a girl who you’re married to mainly because they’ve already consented to sexual intercourse for rest of their life”.

EM: In the enjoy there’s a perception that gals on juries can be tougher than adult males.

JC: One in three ladies have skilled sexual assault. I think there are probably so several girls who have so considerably guilt and blame and disgrace about their have ordeals that that is how they then watch other ladies. There’s so much that we never deal with, especially when people today really don’t talk up, about what it is that they go through. There’s a ton that we haven’t dealt with that we then variety of job on to other men and women …

KP: A ton of us spherical this desk perform in pretty male spaces. Element of you feels, rightly or wrongly, that there is a stability concerning wanting to connect with out wrongdoing wherever you see it but also inquiring, am I likely to elevate the alarm just about every time there’s a barrister that will make me experience a little bit not comfortable? And particularly inside chambers composition, there is no HR. This arrived throughout loud and crystal clear when examining the participate in. So, if there is an concern, you either go nuclear by likely to the head of your chambers or you pipe down. It’s a definitely complicated determination for a lady.

EM: Suzie, you’ve started off a discussion with this play. How do you want men and women to leave the theatre?

SM: The target of sexual assault regulation has so usually been on the historically male perpetrators’ viewpoint of currently being wrongly accused. I just preferred to explore a woman’s lived knowledge. I did my exploration in several international locations with specialist sexual assault courts in which there is a good deal of experience in the courtroom and an comprehending about how trauma throughout a sexual assault can suggest that there are very apparent memories about some things and other pieces that are peripheral and not as clarified. Theatre is a forum where we can have these discussions and it’s no longer a frightening conversation. #MeToo permitted females to converse about it devoid of it staying shrouded in shame. It is about widening that and saying it is really the shame of the full neighborhood.