Decision-making in rape trials

January 2007

GavelResearch on biased jury decisions in rape trials informed Home Office legislation review and judicial assessments in New Zealand.

Research by Dr Emily Finch and Professor Vanessa Munro used focus groups and simulated rape trials to examine how intoxication - affecting victim, defendant or both - influenced jury decisions as to whether or not consent was given to intercourse.

Researchers found that a double standard operates: the more intoxicated the defendant is, the less likely he is to be regarded as culpable - while a drunk victim is far likelier to be regarded as having contributed to what happened. The significant exception was where Rohypnol, known from media publicity as the 'date rape drug', had been administered, with a hard line taken towards defendants in such cases.

Impact

  • Dr Finch and Professor Munro have been consulted by the Home Office review team considering a further update of the Sexual Offences Act.
  • The research was cited in the New Zealand Court of Appeal, in the case of Crown v Sturm, and the researchers were invited to present their findings to New Zealand's Ministry of Justice.
  • Both researchers advised in the preparation of a BBC Panorama documentary on rape.

Further information