MEN standing trial for rape stand a far greater chance of walking free if they appear before a jury dominated by women.
A six-year study on the outcome of sex crimes in the Central Criminal Court found female-dominated juries failed to convict a single person of rape. By contrast, jury panels with a majority of men found one in every four defendants guilty.
These are among preliminary findings of the groundbreaking Rape Attrition Study being finalised at NUI Galway.
It looked at all allegations and outcomes of rape from 2000 to the end of 2005. In this period, 103 rape cases went to trial involving 95 defendants. Of these:
* 18 juries had a female majority.
* 66 juries had a male majority.
* 19 juries were gender balanced.
One of the research strands focused on a theory that the frequency of a male bias in rape juries contributed to the extremely low conviction rates for sex crimes.
Law lecturer Conor Hanly, giving his personal assessment of the preliminary results, said the results show this has no grounding in fact.
“The most striking result is the fact that not one of the 20 female dominated juries in a six-year period convicted a defendant of rape.
“This compares with a conviction rate of 25% among male dominated juries and 16% among juries with equal numbers of male and female jurors.
“Contrary to what social science research would lead us to expect, it would seem that female dominated juries are less sympathetic to rape complainants than are their male colleagues,” he said.
The study only looked at convictions of rape and left aside details of lesser charges the accused may have faced — such as assault or kidnap.
The results conflicted with two similar Irish studies — the Mitchell Committee (1975) and the Law Reform Commission (1987) — which found little difference between the jury types.
However, Mr Hanley said the scope of the current project was too confined to say if female dominated juries had become more hostile towards women alleging rape.
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