Law professor calls for further reform of rape trial process
Acclaimed law researcher Professor Elisabeth McDonald’s new book, In the Absence of a Jury: Examining judge-alone rape trials, is the second in a trilogy of open-access resources to be published by Canterbury University Press (CUP).
“All people should be able to participate in legal processes which do not have negative impacts,” says University of Canterbury Adjunct Professor Elisabeth McDonald, whose new book seeks to lessen the harm experienced by victims of sexual offence.
“This research, made possible by privileged access to case materials, compares the experience of adult complainants in rape trials heard by a judge sitting alone with the experience of those in jury trials.”
An adjunct professor in the University of Canterbury’s Faculty of Law, Professor McDonald’s research is the first in the world to specifically compare jury trials involving rape allegations with trials heard by a judge only. The research provides further support for the argument there are more changes to be made.
“There have been decades of well-intentioned procedural and substantive law reform specifically aimed at reducing the harm caused by the trial process in rape cases. The Sexual Violence Legislation Act 2021 is the latest example – although primarily informed by research completed in 2011,” Professor McDonald says.
“So there has been progress but it is slow and not completely effective. All people should be able to participate in legal processes which do not have negative impacts, and as we know more about the effects of trauma – including Traumatic Brain Injuries and Adverse Childhood Experiences – the more the justice system should respond.