Contrary to the natural assumption that more female jurors would find in favour of the victim, Irish academic research shows that female-dominated juries are less likely to convict a rapist.
In the 2009 book Rape and Justice in Ireland, by leading academics Conor Hanly, Deirdre Healy, and Stacy Scriver, it was found that, in sex assault cases, male-dominated juries had a higher conviction rate than those evenly split by gender.
The authors studied and analysed the verdicts and gender breakdowns of 108 juries, of which 64% had more men on them than women; 17% had more women on them; and 19% were evenly divided between male and female jurors.
Their study showed that female-dominated juries did not convict of rape in any case, and the male- dominated juries had a higher conviction rate.
Dr Hanly, who is a lecturer in NUI Galway and a graduate of Yale’s Law School, told the Irish Examiner that people are presented with ‘real rape’ scenarios through movies and TV shows, and when they end up on a jury panel, they are presented with a scenario that does not match this perception.
The jury is then asking: ‘Is that rape?’
“The ‘real rape’ scenario involves a stranger and a tremendous amount of violence, when in reality it’s the opposite and that needs to be constantly reiterated,” he said.
According to the latest research from the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, for people over the age of 18, only approximately 14% of offenders were unknown to victims, therefore showing that allegations of sexual assault do not adhere to the stranger fallacy.
Dr Hanly said that the victim’s background, level of alcohol consumption, and behaviour are scrutinised during the trial process.
“To my mind, whether you’re drunk or not does not remove legal protection,” he said.
“You are a human being with all the rights as if you were sober.
“Those questions (around alcohol and behaviour) are asked because they play to preconceptions on the jury that may or may not be there.
“But she is not responsible for his actions. Only he is responsible for his actions.
“Rape does seem to attract myths that aren’t involved in other cases. There is rape and there is sex.
“The act may appear similar but the circumstances are very, very different. Rape cases have always suffered because they’re linked to sex, and they aren’t, but a lot of mythology has grown up around it.”
Mr Hanly said the only way to demystify the act of rape and remove misconceptions is through facts and repetition.
“Whether people accept that is up to them,” he said.
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