Last month Britain’s favourite tax barrister, Jolyon Maugham QC, suggested in an article in the New Statesman that juries ought to be abolished for rape trials. I had meant to reply to him much earlier, but did not have the time to do so until now.
As he is in some ways a stickler for accuracy I should quote him:
“These few hundred words are not the place to remake the system by which rape is deterred. But we might start by asking, as Julie Bindel has urged, whether trial by jury serves the public interest in rape cases.”
I don’t think he is quite advocating the abolition of juries for rape cases, but he is certainly suggesting that it is something that should be discussed. Indeed, trial by jury, he says, is the place to start.
He was immediately criticised by some criminal lawyers for stepping outside his area of expertise. Not by me though; not least because my limited expertise as a criminal lawyer has never stopped me offering my thoughts on any number of other subjects, some of which are only vaguely related to the law (I can’t help you with tax avoidance though). Mr Maugham’s insights into what is undoubtedly a thorny area should be entirely welcome. Continue reading “Rape juries: Jolyon Maugham hits the wrong target”
These days no prosecutor is considered properly trained until they have attended a course to warn them sternly of the dangers of believing “myths and stereotypes” about sexual offences. The CPS website lists 10 such myths (defined as “a commonly held belief, idea or explanation that is not true”), including, for example:
“Rape occurs between strangers in dark alleys” (obviously it occasionally does, but the myth is that it only or mainly occurs in that way).
“You Can Tell if She’s ‘Really’ Been Raped by How She Acts” (when, as the CPS correctly points out, reactions to rape are “highly varied and individual.”)
It is all to the good that any myth should be expunged by the cauterising effect of truth, but there are even more fundamental assumptions underlying the whole criminal justice system. They are these:
- Jurors can safely rely on the memory of an honest witness;
- Jurors can safely assess when a witness’s memory is mistaken;
- Jurors can safely assess when a witness is lying.
Unfortunately each one of these assumptions is a myth: a “commonly held belief that is not true.” Continue reading “Never mind rape myths, the criminal justice system is built on even more fundamental myths”
Oscar Pistorius has had his conviction and 5 year prison sentence for culpable homicide overturned by the South African Court of Appeal. It has been replaced by a finding that he was guilty of murder. Instead of re-sentencing him itself, the Court of Appeal has sent the case back to the trial judge, Thokozile Masipa. Continue reading “A few thoughts on Oscar Pistorius”