New research has shown that nearly half of jurors in rape cases come to a guilty verdict before deliberation, indicating a predictive relationship between juror demographics, personal experience, and psychological make up. This in turn has an impact upon verdicts in rape cases.
The study, conducted by a researcher at the University of Huddersfield with legal guidance from Manchester based barristers’ chambers St John’s Buildings, revealed that 43% of jurors chose a pre-deliberation guilty verdict, with this figure rising to 83% among jurors with personal experiences of sexual victimisation. However, 13% changed their decision following discussions with fellow jurors.
The study was commissioned to better understand the psychology of jurors trying allegations of sexual offences in the UK. Ministry of Justice statistics from 2015 reveal that just 1,297 convictions were secured, representing less than four per cent of all cases recorded by police over the 12 months.
Dominic Willmott, researcher at Huddersfield University and Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at Leeds Trinity University, said:.
“Our study highlights that even before the case has begun, jurors’ psycho-social make up predisposes them towards particular verdict decisions, making a vetting system for juries increasingly important. By implementing such a system, we can reduce existing bias from juries, which should result in a greater number of fair outcomes.”
Nigel Booth, barrister at St John’s Buildings, said that the research brought up "some very serious and difficult questions about the fairness of jury trials in rape cases." He also referred to the measures inroduced by the Government in recent years, which "helped complainants feel more at ease with the trial process", but stressed that these measures do not address jurors' experiences and beliefs.