Statistics indicate an ongoing decline in the conviction rate for rape in England and Wales. Concerned by this, the Government has introduced proposals to allow prosecutors to present general expert evidence witness testimony concerning the psychological impact of rape. The declared aim of this is to overcome one of the major obstacles facing prosecutors in rape cases, namely the tendency of defence lawyers to portray the 'normal' behaviour of complainants as 'unusual' or inconsistent with a genuine complaint, by educating jurors about the diverse and complex reactions people may exhibit to such events. In particular, it has been suggested that expert testimony could be used to explain: delay in reporting, failure to resist assault, narrative inconsistency and calm demeanour post-assault.

This initiative is based on two key assumptions:

  • that the existence of these behavioural cues on the part of the rape complainant impact negatively on assessment of her credibility
  • that expert testimony has the capacity to influence juror decision-making and to counter myths about sexual violence

The aim of this project is to subject both these assumptions to empirical scrutiny through the use of a series of mini-trial reconstructions involving actors, barristers and volunteer mock jurors.

Start date
12 November 2007
End date
11 February 2009
Grant holder
Professor Vanessa Munro
Dr Louise Ellison
Grant amount
Grant reference
Socio Legal Studies
Socio-Legal Studies
Grant type