A disturbing court case early last year drew attention to a serious legal loophole which the Department of Justice hopes to eliminate next year. The case caused critics to talk about the existence of a 'molesters' charter' after the Court of Final Appeal quashed a stepfather's conviction for raping a nine-year-old girl because she could not give the exact dates of the repeated offences. Young victims have traditionally been at a disadvantage in court. Defence lawyers question whether they can distinguish between truth and fiction, and cast doubt on their reliability. Because the accused enjoy the benefit of doubt, many offenders have walked free - leaving their victims with burdens of guilt which can linger into their adult lives. The pressures that victims can feel were even more apparent in a second case, which saw a 17-year-old retract evidence of sexual abuse against her father although police knew that was caused by intense family pressure. The father had confessed and there was other evidence, but it ended with the girl being considered for a perjury charge. The new proposal will make 'persistent sexual abuse' an offence if assaults occur three times within a specified period. Campaigners would like to cut the number to two, as in Australia, but this does improve the present situation. The change will be put to the legislature in July, with moves to accept evidence from spouses in cases of sexual misconduct. This will allow wives to give evidence against husbands in cases of marital rape or incest. These crimes often go unpunished because families feel too ashamed, embarrassed or frightened to press charges, even against violent husbands. But if these proposals become law, they will be compelled to give evidence and thus cannot be blamed by relatives for shaming the family. Yet no matter how sensitively the law handles such cases, the victims often pay, especially if a breadwinner is jailed and family income is lost. Fairer laws will tip the balance a little more in the victims' favour. Since nothing can completely redress their suffering, that is as it should be.