International Women's Day 2023: The Examination of Serious Sexual Assault (TESSA) - 20 years of the Sexual Offences Act: Is it still fit for purpose?

Thursday 9 March 2023


Suzie Miller

Soma Sara

Kate Parker

Louise Hooper

This online event is being held by Garden Court Chambers as part of our International Women's Day 2023 events programme.

Date: Thursday 9 March 2023
Time: 6.30pm - 8pm
Venue: Online  
Cost: Free

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The offence of rape has been on the statute books since 1861. However, consent (which is synonymous with the offence of rape) wasn’t given a statutory definition until the current Sexual Offences Act was given Royal Assent in 2003.

At the time, the legislature of England and Wales was arguably ahead of its time, as other jurisdictions had (up until more recently) failed to recognise that sex without consent was rape, and instead required there to be an element of force or threat, in order for the offence to be made out.

Current statistics demonstrate that giving consent a statutory footing has done very little to ameliorate sexual violence perpetrated against women, with 1 in 4 adult females having been raped or sexually assaulted. However, as the Sexual Offences Act 2003 reaches its 20th year, a question that really does need to be asked is whether the current law in England and Wales on rape, consent and reasonable belief in consent is fit for purpose.

Join leading Garden Court barristers and a panel of exceptional external speakers, including Suzie Miller, writer of the hit one-woman show, Prima Facie, in the examination of serious sexual assault (TESSA). 

As part of our celebration of International Women's Day 2023, we are also holding a two-part online event series on Domestic Abuse and Housing. See event details for Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Speaker Panel:

Danielle Manson, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Danielle joined chambers in 2020 and represents defendants in all areas of criminal law and associated work. She has particular expertise in representing children and young people and is known for being extremely personable as well as technically and strategically astute. Danielle has a wealth of experience across the general crime spectrum and has already undertaken work beyond her call. 

Suzie Miller, Author and Playwright: Prima Facie
Suzie Miller is a contemporary international playwright, librettist and screenwriter drawn to complex human stories often exploring injustice. She has often been described as a courageous writer and won the Australian Writers’ Guild and Kit Denton Fellowship for Writing with Courage in 2008. Her hit one-woman play Prima Facie (starring Jodie Comer) sold out London’s Harold Pinter theatre last year and is due to open on Broadway in April 2023.

Suzie worked as a human rights lawyer and a children’s rights lawyer before leaving the law and moving to London in 2010 with her young family to pursue a theatre writing career full time, and she now resides between both London and Sydney.

Soma Sara, Author and Founder of Everyone's Invited
Soma Sara is a multi-award-winning activist, author, speaker and CEO of the charity ‘Everyone’s Invited’. In June 2020, Soma began sharing her experiences of rape culture on Instagram. In light of the overwhelming response from those that resonated with her story Soma founded Everyone’s Invited. Everyone’s Invited is a charity providing an anonymous space for survivors to share their stories and delivering specialist education designed to empower school communities to promote healthy relationships, sexual well-being, and to tackle rape culture. Soma has been included in the BBC 100 global list of inspiring and influential women of 2021. 

In September 2022, Soma published her first book, ‘Everyone’s Invited’, a collection of essays that grapple with the modern sexual landscape and the root causes of a culture that enables sexual harassment, abuse and violence to prevail. 

Kate Parker, Barrister and Founder of Schools Consent Project
Kate Parker is a criminal barrister at 5 Paper Buildings. In 2015, Kate founded the Schools Consent Project, a charity which sends lawyers into schools to deliver workshops to 11-18-year-olds on the legal definition of consent, key sexual offences (rape, sexual assault, 'sexting', 'revenge porn'), the ages of consent, bystander intervention and what to do in the event of an attack. The charity is the UK's foremost consent education provider, having delivered workshops to 30,000 young people in the last 7 years and having won an award from 10 Downing Street in recognition of its contribution to society. The charity is the official fundraising partner of Suzie Miller's play 'Prima Facie' during its West End and Broadway run; in April 2023, the Schools Consent Project opens its New York chapter.

Louise Hooper, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers
Louise Hooper is an established public law, human rights and migration lawyer. Her practice over the last 20 years has involved a focus on human rights, equality and dignity. Louise has expertise in international law and international human rights law generally and in particular relating to sex and gender and the ECHR. Her work in this field has included examining legal frameworks and the implementation of laws relating to sex and gender-based violence, domestic violence and persecution and trafficking cases. Domestically, this includes challenges to reasonable grounds and conclusive grounds decisions, refusals of residence permits, detention of victims of trafficking and breaches of the duty to investigate arising under policy and Article 4 ECHR. 

Louise co-authored the ICJ’s Practitioner's Guide to Refugee Status Claims Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2016) with Livio Zilli.

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