Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to publish codes of practice relating to the ‘rape clause’, after he appeared to replicate a Department for Work and Pensions Minister’s guidance women reporting rape during benefits claims were unlikely to be prosecuted.
The matter arises from the amendment to benefits, which effectively sees new claimants having to prove a child has been conceived via rape if they wish to claim tax credits for more than two children. In most instances the law in Northern Ireland would require anyone being made aware of such cases to notify the PSNI – even potentially against the women herself if, for example, it was revealed an abortion were sought consequently.
“Women who have been the victim of rape risk being further traumatised in having to reveal their experience. It is an outrage for women seeking legitimate support for children to be placed in this position,” said the South Belfast MLA.
“Professionals offering help must not face the risk of prosecution for failing to disclose a woman has made them aware of a potential case of sexual crime. I am calling on Barra McGrory to issue guidance to prosecutors to assure all relevant practitioners dealing with women in these cases, and the women themselves of their position in respect of these matters. There is, I believe, a chilling effect to the current legislation which must be urgently clarified.”