England: Academic suggests abolishing juries in rape trials
An academic has suggested that juries be abolished in rape trials, leaving judges to decide cases, The Times reports.
Dominic Willmott, a doctoral researcher at the University of Huddersfield, said that doing so would amount to “a massive break with ancient English legal tradition” but that there was growing support for such a move from lawyers, politicians and the police.
He said the idea was “gaining traction among policy makers”.
“I thought there would be so much resistance,” Mr Willmott said.
“But there is a growing number of important people in a number of different agencies who agree with what I am saying.”
Mr Willmott claims there is evidence of a disproportionately high number of acquittals in “acquaintance rape” cases, where the alleged crime was committed by a person known to the victim.
He added that, when speaking to police officers and barristers, many “believe there is something about these cases that fail to get convictions”.
He said: “The psychology behind it is that a stranger grabbing you in a bush and violently raping you fits the public perception of what it means to be raped.
“But if an assault doesn’t meet that psychological script, it can suggest to jurors that this isn’t a rape. For example, the fact that a woman invited a man back to her flat doesn’t necessarily mean that sex is on the cards. It would appear that a large proportion of the general public don’t recognise this.
“There is clear anecdotal and scientific evidence that the law around rape and the public perception of rape are two separate things and that’s why jurors are failing to convict.”