Cross-examination strategies in rape trials remain resistant to reforms, which continues to negatively impact on complainants despite initiatives to improve the legal process, University of Canterbury law professor Elisabeth McDonald says.
Profession McDonald has published an Open Access book through Cantebury University Press to make her research freely available to those working in this area of the law.
Rape Myths as Barriers to Fair Trial Process: Comparing adult rape trials with those in the Aotearoa Sexual Violence Court Pilot contains findings from four years of research.
It compares the trial process in 30 adult rape cases from 2010-2015 (in which the defence at trial was consent) with 10 cases from the Sexual Violence Court Pilot heard in 2018 (the pilot was established to reduce trial delays and improve the courtroom experience for complainants, particularly children).
Professor McDonald was able to access audio records of rape trials. These contained additional material not included in transcripts, such as instances when a complainant was too distressed to continue giving evidence. This unique approach has effectively opened the court room door on rape trials and shed light on how and why they still often re-traumatise complainants.
The research was funded by the Marsden Fund, the NZ Law Foundation, the Borrin Foundation and UC’s School of Law. Paulette Benson-Greig, Sandra Dickson and Rachel Souness contributed to writing and research.