Research by Dr Susan Leahy (School of Law, University of Limerick) on sexual offences was discussed in an article by Conor Gallagher in the Irish Times on Friday, August 17th. The article discusses the introduction of judicial directions on consent in Irish rape trials.
Dr Leahy is the author of the book Sexual Offending in Ireland: Laws, Procedures and Punishment, said jurors in rape trials can become distracted by questions of how much the complainant had to drink or what they were wearing, when in fact the only question they have to decide is whether she consented or not.
“When they’re in the courtroom with the wigs and gowns, jurors can get distracted from the issue of consent with issues like ‘didn’t she behave foolishly’ or ‘God should she really have drunk that much.’”
“Before they go into the jury room, the judge can drag them back into reality and remind them it’s not their job to determine if someone was foolish. It’s their job to determine if there was consent or not.”
Dr Leahy believes it is vital to instruct jurors on “rape myths” as research shows they are believed by a significant proportion of people. A 2016 Eurobarometer survey showed that 11 per cent of Irish respondents believed that being drunk or on drugs may make having sexual intercourse without consent justified.
The full article is available at this link: www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/juries-must-be-instructed-on-rape-myths-says-expert-1.3598774