Changes To “Honest Belief” Clause In Rape Cases Branded Very Significant

The Ennis-based legal director of Rape Crisis Network Ireland has hailed a move to redefine the “honest belief” clause in rape defence as a “significant change”.

As things stand, a man accused of raping a woman can be acquitted if he honestly believes the victim consented to sex – even when she didn’t.

The Law Reform Commission has now recommended that be removed.


Under current law, if a jury believes that a man accused of rape “honestly believed” that the victim was consenting to sex, he can be fully acquitted – even if the victim maintains that they did not consent.

The Law Reform Commission has recommended a small but significant change in the wording – that such a belief must be reasonable.

Chair of the National Women’s Council Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, who will also be a Fine Gael General Election candidate, outlines how things could potentially change under the proposal.

Should it be approved, a jury will be expected to consider what’s been described as a “specific list of circumstances” relating to the personal capacity of the accused and what steps were taken to ascertain if the woman consented.

Ennis woman Caroline Counihan is the legal director for the Rape Crisis Network.

She’s hailed it as a very significant day for rape victims.