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Expert Evidence to Counteract Jury Misconceptions about Consent in Sexual Assault Cases: Failures and Lessons Learned


Jacqueline Horan and Jane Goodman-Delahunty

This century has seen dramatic changes in the way in which sexual offences, particularly against children, are prosecuted in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. These jurisdictions have acknowledged the potential of myths and misconceptions about how a victim will behave, both during and after a sexual assault, to exert an undue influence on jurors. Expert evidence to educate jurors about common rape myths that apply to issues of consent has been used to redress this issue. However, such expert evidence poses significant challenges for the lawyers and experts. This article explores the effectiveness of educative expert evidence through analysis of an illustrative contemporary Australian child sexual assault case where the authors interviewed some of the jurors and other trial participants about their perceptions of the expert evidence. Practical suggestions to improve educative expert evidence are identified and explained.

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(2020) 43(2) UNSWLJ 707: