Petition to better educate juries about rape muths(10 Posts)
Message withdrawn at poster's request.
Rape myths are so pervasive.
Well I've said this before but I don't really think juries are any significant part of the problem of the very low overall conviction rate for rape (i.e. the ratio of actual rapes to convictions).
I have great respect for Jill Saward and her tireless work, but I think this is just directing effort in the wrong direction.
I don't trust the police, I don't really trust lawyers much. Jurors are the one part of the system that I do trust, because (not despite) the fact that they are ordinary people.
And I'm very suspicious of 'superior' people telling us we can't be trusted because we'll be influenced by the rape myths which are present in society.
Nobody knows how jurors make specific decisions, because in the UK we are not allowed to say. For me it is absurd to assume or imply that the drop in conviction rates is due to hardening of jurors attitudes to victims. There are a large number of factors involved, some of them unknowable (like the real number of rapes taking place). It could, for example, simply be because the CPS are trying more difficult cases.
I've done jury service several times (the joke among my friends is that it's because I'm the only black woman in Peckham without a criminal record...)
And during that service I've done three rape trials (lucky me ). The first was over 25 years ago and was absolutely awful. The most recent was a couple of years ago and was actually pretty good (in terms of the process and the protection of the victim/witness etc).
The prosecution barrister took every opportunity to attack and dispel the relevant rape myths (alcohol, dress etc) both in his introduction and closing, and then the judge went through them all again in his summing up - I think it's now routine. We were left in no doubt that the only thing we had to decide on was what the accused did, and whether he could reasonably believe he had consent. And there was a lot of explanation of consent.
When you're in the jurors waiting room (where you spend a lot of time), it's the one place that you will see the full racial mix of your community, and also equal numbers of men and women. At first it seems like there are more women than men, but a quick count reveals that not to be true.
And I don't know how the number was arrived at, but there is something special about there being 12 jurors - it seems to be exactly the right number somehow. The debate is robust, and you can pretty much guarantee that if the discussion strays into rape myth territory, somebody (male or female) will challenge them. And the interesting thing is that nobody seems to want to defend rape myths when challenged - I think most people deep down really do understand.
So I'm a huge believer in getting 12 ordinary people locked in a room to decide cases like this.
When you see reports of stupid questions sent out by juries, I've no doubt it's because one member has raised it, and the other eleven, out of exasperation, have eventually relayed it out to the judge.
The issue is really the burden of proof -
If you're thinking "I think he probably did it" - no, not good enough.
"on balance, I think I believe her rather than him" - No, that's no good either.
To convict, there has to be no (reasonable) doubt in your mind that he did it - and that is really quite a high bar. But I'm not in favour of lowering it.
Certainly there is still plenty to be done to help rape victims and secure more convictions, but I think the biggest wins are to be made before the court stage.
What information IS given to juries?
Someone on here posted about being on a jury in a rape trial and she said it was made clear to the jury that if any part of the man's penis had touched the mouth, vagina or anus of the victim without consent then the jury must find him guilty.
I do think there is a bigger problem, I've been trying to debate and fianlly blocked (the first time ever) someone on twitter who is claiming what the rapist ched evans did wasn't rape because the woman didn't scream out for help.
Happy to sign the petition, although I do think that every time a rape myth is challenged (on here, in the office, at home etc) a potential juror has been spoken to.
Then it's just (!) a matter of getting the Police and the CPS to trust in juries.
Join the discussion
Please login first.