Rape evidence may be pre-recorded

INTRODUCING more pre-recorded interviews has been suggested as a way to help raise "troublingly low" conviction rates in adult rape trials.

The idea came from a New Zealand study showing juries received substantially more information about the alleged offending from victims when courts used pre-recorded evidence rather than direct evidence.

The study compared the accounts of 10 adult rape victims in their first police interviews with their account given during live direct evidence at trial.

It found jurors received just two thirds of the details central to establishing the allegations than they would have with pre-recorded evidence.

CEPS Research Fellow Nina Westera, based at Griffith University, said conviction rates in adult rape trials were low despite more than 30 years of criminal justice sector reform.

She said pre-recorded evidence might preserve a more complete and accurate recall from complainants, thereby providing information that would otherwise be lost through direct evidence.

"In many cases, a lack of other evidence means establishing the charges relies solely on the complainant's testimony," she said.

"The quality of complainants' recall, and how convincing these accounts are, has a central role in determining if a conviction occurs.

"If the quality of testimony is enhanced, it may achieve increased convictions without increasing the risk of wrongful convictions."

Ms Westera said questions encouraging short responses dominated direct examination of victims, during most rape trials, while open-ended narratives were common in pre-recorded evidence.

"For conviction to occur, the jury must be persuaded by the evidence that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and the complainant's version of events must be believable and convincing," she said.

"Our study has found that pre-recorded evidence improves the quality of information available in rape trials and the criminal justice system more generally."

Topics:  court evidence rape

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