The Court of Final Appeal must decide whether 17-year-old rape victims will have to face their attackers during trials. The Court of Appeal yesterday concluded that the question was so important that it should be answered by the highest court. Barrister Phillip Ross argued that his client, a convicted rapist, should never have been found guilty because his victim had turned 17 just before she was cross-examined via live video link. He said she had outgrown her status as a child witness and should have answered questions face to face in the courtroom. When appeal judges Vice-President Mr Justice Noel Power, Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore and Mr Justice Simon Mayo rejected his argument, Mr Ross asked for permission to raise the issue before the Court of Final Appeal. He said prosecutors would be spared having to rush through their cases as 16-year-old victims approached their 17th birthdays if the situation was clarified. 'This situation is going to crop up again and again,' he said. If the Court of Final Appeal agrees with Mr Ross that 17 year olds must testify in person, his client's conviction will be overturned. His client is serving a 6.5-year term for repeatedly attacking his stepdaughter when she was nine years old. The girl's mother married the man in July 1988 and a year later, when the woman was seven months' pregnant, he started attacking the young girl. The girl was at home on summer holidays and the wife away early at work. The victim, who slept in the bunk bed above her parents, claimed her stepfather woke her one July morning and told her to join him on the lower bunk. The 31-year-old stepfather (now 40) then removed the child's clothing and had sex with her. 'She closed her eyes,' Mr Justice Simon Mayo said. 'She did not fully realise the significance of what was happening to her.' The girl suffered several similar attacks that summer. They ended when her mother went into hospital to give birth to the child's younger sister. Five years later, the victim shared her secret with a school friend. A social worker heard of the attacks and told the girl's mother. The woman reported her husband to police, but later recanted, claiming she had only filed the complaint 'to teach him a lesson'. When his case came to trial, the stepfather claimed the girl had framed him at the instigation of her troublesome elder sister. But the jury did not believe him and found him guilty of rape.