Tauhere UC Connect public talk: Are rape trials fairer without a jury?

11 March 2022

Despite decades of law reform aimed at improving the experience, recent Ministry of Justice research confirms that giving evidence during a trial remains distressing and re-traumatising for rape complainants.

  • UC Connect - Rape trial reform

Despite decades of law reform aimed at improving the experience, recent Ministry of Justice research confirms that giving evidence during a trial remains distressing and re-traumatising for rape complainants.

One of the claims made by advocates, survivors, politicians, and law reformers is that “getting rid of the jury” would make a significant difference to the experience of rape complainants.

University of Canterbury Adjunct Professor Elisabeth McDonald’s previous research, published in Rape Myths as Barriers to Fair Trial Process (Canterbury University Press, 2020), examined the reasons for ongoing negative impacts of the rape trial process on complainants despite many  attempts at targeted reforms of law and practice.

In this free Tauhere UC Connect public lecture, Professor McDonald will discuss the results of a Law Foundation and University of Canterbury-funded study which compared complainant experience in judge-alone adult rape trials with complainant experience in adult rape jury trials.

This work was undertaken to provide empirically based insights to inform the public debate on changing the decision-maker in rape trials. Professor McDonald will outline the differences between the two modes of trial (such as the provision of written reasons for verdict); the impact of those differences in terms of complainant experience; and the potential for further improvements within current adversarial trial process.

The open access book that records the results of this research – In the absence of a jury: Examining judge-alone rape trials (CUP, 2022) – will be publicly released at the University of Canterbury public lecture on Tuesday 15 March at 7pm. Professor McDonald’s public lecture will be introduced by Christchurch High Court Justice Rachel Dunningham, an alumna of the University of Canterbury with an LLB(Hons) with first class honours.

Elisabeth McDonald MNZM has taught and researched in the areas of criminal law, evidence, sexual and family violence and law and sexuality for more than 30 years. She is an author and contributing author of several evidence texts and online resources, including Adams on Criminal Law – Evidence and Mahoney on Evidence (2018) and is co-author and co-editor of From “Real Rape” to Real Justice (2011) and Feminist Judgments Aotearoa New Zealand (2017). Professor McDonald has been a consultant to the Law Commission and the Human Rights Commission and is a regular contributor to development programmes for the police, the judiciary and NGOs. In 2018 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her contributions to law and education.

Tauhere UC Connect public talk: Are rape trials fairer without a jury? Presented by Adjunct Professor Elisabeth McDonald, UC Law, 7pm – 8pm, Tuesday 15 March 2022, in C1, Central lecture theatre, University of Canterbury’s Ilam campus, Christchurch. Register to attend free at: www.canterbury.ac.nz/ucconnect

Media contact:

  • Email: media@canterbury.ac.nz Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168
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