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    UK Jurors Consistently Fail to Convict Younger Men in Rape Cases - Prof.

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    According to statistics, men aged 18 to 24 in England and Wales are consistently less likely to be found guilty than older men on trial. Young men accounted for more than a quarter of defendants in rape-only cases in the five years to 2017-18. Sputnik spoke to Dr. Dominic Willmott, from The University of Huddersfield, about this story.

    The findings are the first in one of the most contentious and sensitive issues facing the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

    Sputnik: Could you tell me a little bit more about these figures? Why are so many young men who have been accused of rape, failing to be convicted?

    Dominic Willmott: There's a number of reasons and it's the first time that these figures have been available. I'm a psychologist working in this area and I do research into this particular issue around specifically this age group. For a long time senior police officers, police officers on the ground and solicitors, lawyers and barristers have been telling me that there's something about these types of cases, within this age range of 18 to 24 year old defendants which is how the CPS categorize them, there's something about these cases that juries will not convict on. There's something they don't like about it and convictions are lower. Now for the first time, we have evidence to corroborate what people have been saying in practice, what they have been recognizing for some time. Psychologically, what I would say is going on and this has been clarified in the research that we've been carrying out at the University of Huddersfield for a while, is that jurors simply don't like attaching a label to a defendant in a rape case for this age group. What this tell us, is that they [jurors] may well see the legal definition of what non-consensual sexual activity, but they are so scared of determining this to be a rape conviction or to assign the label of rape, effectively they say we are not going to convict this case. 

    Sputnik: Ok, is this a failing because of government policy or something else?

    Dominic Willmott: For me, it definitely reflects a problem more broadly in society. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that part of the problem is that we select juries from the general society and they make up those deciding the fate of these cases. The stereotypes run deep, I often compare and they function very similarly to racist attitudes and constructed overtime through childhood, exposure to peer groups, family norms and that sort of stuff. They are not easy to change, which means ultimately the issue lies with the jurors. All judges in the UK are given training around rape and how to direct juries into not accepting these inaccurate stereotypical beliefs. We know this problem exists, I think these figures now without pointing fingers, are an opportunity for lots of justice organizations who regulate the law to say we need to do something different to tackle this problem. They can no longer hide from these figures, whether they knew they were there or not, and I would argue that they have known about this problem for a long time.

    Sputnik: What do we need to see to improve the ability of juries and ultimately improve and strengthen equal justice for rape complainants?

    Dominic Willmott: There's three possibilities that I advocate. The first and easiest to implement would be greater training for jurors; that would involve various different strategies how to do it, it could be pretrial or during trial that the issue of rape is addressed and we try and tackle that with jurors before they are exposed to evidence or as these things emerge. It would appear that it is one possible solution, it's the easiest, but I would argue that in my opinion it wouldn't be anything worthwhile in terms of changing or addressing this problem. The other two solutions we are left with then is judge only trials, where we get rid of jurors all together and the judges that already have to undertake the anti-stereotypical training, they've already gone through the training and they are supposed to be able to apply the law in a none-biased way — that's one solution. The other solution, quite controversially and I'm the only one arguing this at the moment, is to retain the jury system as we currently have it but in terms of removing the bias, we can use certain psychological procedures at the start of trial and where does this person in the jury pool score in terms of rape attitude, where we can ascertain this person is not too biased and therefore they can decided the evidence in a fair and reasonable way.

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    Tags:
    age, bias, jury, rape, courts, Wales, England, United Kingdom
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