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Title: Court responses to rape and sexual assault : an observation of sexual violence trials
Author: Smith, Olivia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7425 226X
Awarding Body: University of Bath
Current Institution: University of Bath
Date of Award: 2014
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This PhD explores adult rape and sexual assault trials; investigating trial practices, examining how court contexts impact on those practices, and identifying potential ways to improve responses to victim/survivors. The research is important because criminal justice responses to rape and sexual assault have been critiqued for decades, both in England and internationally. Despite attempts to tackle these problems, Stern (2010) observes that victim/survivors still face many difficulties when engaging with the Criminal Justice System. This is especially true of courts, which have been slower to respond to policy and have been the focus of less research than the earlier criminal justice stages. The court research that does exist tends to rely on interviews and is largely outdated by recent policy initiatives. This PhD therefore uses trial observation methods, providing an insight into what is actually happening at court and addressing a gap in the literature. The main findings are: difficult practicalities, barristers focusing on rape myths and ‘rational’ ideals, and using manipulative questioning caused by various competing ‘justice’ priorities. These findings support my thesis that victim/survivors face many difficulties at trial; and that these difficulties often relate to the underlying context of the Criminal Justice System rather than being solely about sexist attitudes or misunderstandings about sexual violence. This research can therefore help create more effective policy recommendations by tackling the contextual barriers to implementation. Key examples of this include that while the research supports ongoing training about the realities behind rape myths for legal professionals, it argues that such training will be ineffective without also providing barristers with practical ways to tackle the rhetoric about ‘rational’ ideals. Similarly, the findings suggest that policy might be undermined by certain interpretations of the right to fair trial, so there is a need to clarify the discourses around victim/survivors’ and defendants’ rights.
Supervisor: Skinner, Tina Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available