Enhancing the Credibility of Complainants in Child Sexual Assault Trials: the Effect of Expert Evidence and Judicial Directions

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, A Cossins, K. O'Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

As a result of sexual abuse, some children exhibit particular behaviours that are counter intuitive and may not appear to make sense to the adult layperson. This study investigated the knowledge and misconceptions of jury-eligible citizens about children's memory and responses to sexual abuse, and examined the influence of expert evidence and judicial directions in challenging these misconceptions in simulated CSA trials. 130 community volunteers read one of five versions of a simulated jury trial, and completed a pre- and post-trial questionnaire to provide measures of their knowledge of children's responses to sexual abuse, perceptions of victim credibility and verdict. Results revealed that endorsement of CSA misconceptions negatively impacted ratings of complainant credibility and verdicts. Judicial directions provided before the child complainant testified enhanced complainant credibility, which in turn predicted guilty verdicts. Comparison of the efficacy of two procedural legal mechanisms to manage juror misconceptions and improve knowledge about CSA provides guidance to policy makers, judges and legal counsel on ways to achieve increased fairness in cases of CSA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-783
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Volume28
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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