Should juries be scrapped in rape trials?Pepperells
Labour MP, Ann Coffey, has recently commented that juries in rape trials may have to be abolished to stop falling conviction rates. Ms Coffey told the Commons that rape myths including views that “women invite rape by what they wear” or “real rapes are done by strangers in alleyways” were dominant in society. She added that “defence lawyers play up (such) myths in an attempt to rubbish the witness”.
Advocates are simply not allowed to “rubbish the witness”. Where a Defendant is tried for a sexual offence, evidence about the complainant’s previous sexual behaviour cannot be adduced without the Court’s permission and, even if permission is granted, it is only specific and relevant instances.
Ms Coffey also suggested jury vetting but there is no evidence to suggest that, or scrapping juries altogether, would improve sexual violence. In fact, it could cause a greater risk of miscarriages of justice either through judges feeling pressured to improve conviction rates or Defendants having to prove their innocence beyond the reasonable doubt of a deliberately biased jury.
The principle of Defendants having the right to be tried by a jury underpins our criminal justice system. If juries are removed for rape cases, it is inevitable they will be removed in all cases as it is much quicker and cheaper for a single judge to deal with them.
It would be far more beneficial for the funding cuts to be reversed as this would enable Defendants to be properly advised (including as to whether to plead guilty if appropriate) and represented in rape cases which are distressing to all involved.
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