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Title: Sexual offences and young complainers : sexuality, character and consent
Author: Burman, Michèle
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1996
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This is an empirical research study of contemporary court room practices in Scottish sexual offence cases where the complainer is a young female under the age of 17 years old. The data was collected primarily by means of incourt observation of 94 sexual offence cases heard in courts across Scotland over a three year period. The data includes both contested criminal trials where evidence was led, and also 'guilty plea' cases where the accused pleaded guilty in advance of a trial and no evidence was led, but where there was a plea in mitigation by the defence on behalf of the accused. This study explores how the question of young female sexuality is perceived in the court room. Sexual offence cases involving young complainers constitute a key site for investigating a series of ambivalences about the sexuality of young women and girls, wherein it is simultaneously seen as a source of danger and a focus of protection. Specifically, the study is concerned with the use of sexual evidence. It describes the trial processes of examination and cross-examination, and the giving of evidence by young female complainers. In particular, it documents the ways in which sexual evidence is introduced by means of representations that draw on images of female sexuality. By so doing it shows the ways in which ideas about young female sexuality pervade the court room in the processing of sexual offence cases. In searching for the ideological basis of contemporary court room rhetoric in such cases, the study locates the late 19th century as a time when prevailing ideas about young female sexuality became incorporated into legislation which raised the female 'age of consent' and created a set of statutory sexual offences which, virtually unchanged, forms the cornerstone of contemporary sexual offence legislation in Scotland. In addition to documenting sexual evidence, the study is also concerned with the use to which such evidence is put in the trial. Centrally, it examines the relationship between the images of young female sexuality to the crucial legal questions of the relevance, admissibility and deployment of evidence, and the substantive elements of the sexual crimes and offences which are the subject of the criminal trial. Currently, Scottish legislation limits the use of sexual history and sexual character evidence concerning the complainer, unless such evidence is deemed relevant to issues in the trial and it is against this development that the use of such evidence is assessed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available