Child sexual assault trials: a survey of juror perceptions

[7-740] Article

J Cashmore and L Trimboli, “Child sexual assault trials: a survey of juror perceptions” New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Attorney General’s Department of NSW, Sydney, 2000.


This study explored the perceptions of 277 jurors from 25 juries hearing child sexual assault trials held in four District Courts in Sydney between May 2004 and December 2005. The aim of the survey was to explore jurors’ perceptions of the fairness of the trial process where CCTV and pre-recorded evidence are used and their understanding of the reasons for the use of these special measures. The survey also explored the jurors’ perceptions of the fairness of the trial process for the child complainants and the defendants; and their perceptions of various aspects of the child complainants’ behaviour.

Jurors indicated that they understood the reasons why special measures were used to present children’s evidence, and that they perceived them to be fair to both the child complainant and the defendant. Consistent with previous research, the more confident and consistent children appeared to the jurors, the more convincing or credible their testimony was perceived to be.

Also consistent with previous research and with the concerns outlined by a number of inquiries, jurors rated children’s treatment by defence lawyers during cross-examination as significantly less fair than children’s treatment by either the judges or the crown prosecutors. Children were perceived to have more difficulty understanding the questions asked by defence lawyers and were less confident and more stressed when answering these questions than when answering questions asked by crown prosecutors. Jurors perceived that the court treatment of defendants was fair and respectful.


Acknowledgment: this article was first published in full in the Crime and Justice Bulletin, Number 102, September 2006, a publication of the NSW Bureau of Crime, Statistics and Research. Reproduced with permission.