New study assesses sexual violence court pilot
Executive Director of the Law Foundation, Lynda Hagen, has written her latest article for LawTalk. Lynda highlights the work of Professor Elisabeth McDonald of the University of Canterbury and Paulette Benton-Greig of the University of Waikato, who are conducting research to assess whether special court processes used in pilot sexual violence courts are making it less traumatising for complainants to give evidence.
The work, funded by the Law Foundation, will focus on the processes rather than the outcomes, and will review at least 10 cases from the pilot sexual violence courts in Auckland and Whangarei and compare them with acquaintance rape case details from non-specialist courts.
Elisabeth says the research is timely and important: “Proponents of procedural law reform in rape cases have been strongly advocating for specialist courts and personnel, so an analysis of the ways that intensively-managed sexual violence trials differ to general trials is urgently needed,” she says.
The year-long study will review factors such as the proper application of evidence rules, the frequency of judges’ intervention in questioning, the use of “rape mythology” such as particular forms of complainant behaviour before and after the alleged offence, and closing arguments and judges’ direction to juries.
The Law Foundation has provided $23,800 funding for this project