PARENTS and women's groups are outraged by a High Court decision to halt a rape trial and acquit the defendant, saying the decision was a mockery of justice. Mr Justice Woo directed a jury on Tuesday to return a not guilty verdict on Wong Chi-ming, 55, who was charged with six counts of rape and indecent assault when the victim, who is deaf and mute, became distressed during cross-examination by the defence counsel. He said the 22-year-old fast-food shop worker, who is also slightly mentally retarded, could suffer serious health problems if the trial continued. But the chairman of the Joint Council of Parents of the Mentally Handicapped, Cheung Kwong-chi said the judge could have adjourned the case rather than acquit the defendant. The trial could have continued when the woman had calmed down. ''This is unfair to the victim because the defendant can now walk free without being punished,'' he said. ''The crux of the problem is that the existing judicial system does not protect these people but tortures them.'' Mr Cheung said any woman would have been distressed under cross-examination. Mr Cheung urged the judiciary to set up a special court with a less formal atmosphere. Chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Women's Centres, Angela Chan Sien-yee, said to cross-examine victims in open court was like ''raping them a second time''. Ms Chan said the present judicial system urgently needed review since it seemed to favour defendants. ''There is no system to handle cases involving mentally handicapped people, and putting them in a court environment designed for normal person is unfair to them,'' she said. ''They should be allowed to be cross-examined in private so they will be more willing to give evidence.'' Clinical psychologist Melanie Bryan said she was shocked to learn that the defendant had been released. ''This has made a mockery of justice. A rape is a devastating experience and whoever comes across this will no doubt have emotional distress and not be able to give clear evidence, especially in public,'' she said. But chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Women Lawyers, Wong Hing-chun, said she accepted the decision because under the present system there was no way to proceed with the trial if the victim refused to give evidence. ''Our system allows defence counsel to cross-examine the victims and if this is denied, it will not be possible to have a fair trial,'' Ms Wong said. ''We have to protect and strike a balance between the rights of all parties involved in any trial.''