Sunday, October 14, 2007

Objective Jurors

Juries are the backbone of the criminal justice system, however very little has been written about them. There will always be debate about whether or not juries do their job and whether Australia should adopt a Judge only trial system, i personally swing from one side to the other weekly, depending on verdicts.
This week i recieved the latest research on juror attitudes and biases in sexual assault matters. No real surprises for me, rather the affirmation of what i already suspected.
Sexual assault has among the highest rates of acquittal and lowest rates of proven guilt compared with other offences. Given that more than 70 percent of sexual assault incidents are not reported to police and only about one in 10 reported incidents results in a guilty finding, increasing conviction rates for sexual assault is a key issue for the criminal justice system. Juror judgements in rape trials are influenced more by the attitudes, beliefs and biases about rape which jurors bring with them into the courtroom than by the objective facts presented, and that stereotypical beliefs about rape and victims of it still exist within the community. As jurors are members of the community and are randomly drawn in order to be representative of it, the two studies together indicate that successful prosecutions of sexual assault will remain low until we acknowledge that jurors interpret what they see in light of their own beliefs, experience and expectations. We need to know what these belief structures are and how they directly impact upon judgements in rape trials, if conviction rates are to improve.
When it comes to kids and sexual matters, the sucess rate of those that go to trial is a little higher at around 3 in 10 resulting in a guilty verdict.

Thanks to the AIC (Natalie Taylor) for the recent figures.


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