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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Prima Facie by Suzie Miller

Even if you are the one in three women affected or the two in three that are not, this is a difficult read but an important and ground-breaking novel.

Prima Facie follows the story of Tessa, who is a young and successful barrister. She has worked her way up from humble beginnings to be at the top of her game in court, defending people accused of various crimes, including men accused of sexual assault and rape.

She is very good at what she does, she believes in the justice system, and she takes satisfaction in stopping innocent people from being convicted of a crime they didn’t commit. But she never asks if they are guilty or not. Her job is to defend them to the best of her ability, as is the prosecution's job to present their best case. She believes they are there to work within the law, and the law will protect everyone.

But everything changes when she briefly dates a co-worker, an attorney from an elite, wealthy family. Tessa enjoys his company, and they have a consensual fling. But then, one night, Julian won’t take no for an answer, and Tessa is forced to make the life-changing decision afterwards of whether to press charges. A situation that one in three women find themselves in. When Tessa decides to take the stand in court eventually, she does so in the full knowledge that she may not get a conviction and that the process will be highly traumatic…

Written first as an acclaimed play, Prima Facie is raw and confronting and full of emotional intensity. It certainly highlights how the system is failing victims of sexual assault. As the book says, one in three is too many to ignore, and change needs to happen.

Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Pan Macmillan Publishers


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