Letter: Still wrong
In his opinion piece on the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, published yesterday, Douglas Cusine states that there is no evidence for the assertion that jurors rely on so-called “rape myths” that does not come from mock trials. This is not the first time he has made this claim. He made the same statement in a letter to Scottish Legal News on 4 May 2023 (Myths of Myths).
His claim is incorrect. I pointed this out in my letter of 5 May 2023 (Myth of “no myths” is a myth), so I am surprised to see Mr Cusine repeat it. As I said then, research has been undertaken in New Zealand with real jurors who sat on real rape trials and this research unequivocally supported the findings of mock juror studies that false beliefs about sexual violence influenced jurors’ discussions.
Mr Cusine also states that there is evidence from England that jurors are “not swayed by rape myths” and that this evidence “is based on real cases, real juries and was conducted over a period of more than 20 years”. This too is incorrect. The research in question administered questionnaires to people who had just completed jury service. The questionnaires asked respondents to indicate whether they agreed, disagreed or were unsure about a variety of statements representing some of the main rape myths.
It was not “based on real cases”. It was not based on any case at all, as all the questions were asked in the abstract, not in relation to the case the jurors had sat on (some of which were sexual offence trials, some of which were not). It did not involve “real juries” – it surveyed people who had just completed jury service. It did not take place over 20 years – the survey was administered in 2018-19. And it did not show that jurors “were not swayed” by rape myths – as it did not involve a concrete case, this proposition was not tested.
None of this evidence necessarily leads us to the conclusion that juries should be removed from rape cases. But this important debate needs to take place informed by the evidence, not by opponents of the proposition closing their eyes to the evidence against their position and claiming other evidence says things it manifestly does not.
Professor Fiona Leverick
University of Glasgow