This study explored the perceptions of jurors and juries hearing child sexual assault trials held in District Courts in Sydney, Australia between 2004 and 2005.
Jurors in this study understood and accepted the reasons why the children’s evidence was presented via closed circuit television (CCTV) and via video-taped interviews recorded with the child during the investigation of the matter. Most jurors felt the use of CCTV was fair to both the child complainant and the defendant. The taped interview was helpful in giving them the opportunity to observe the child. Findings also indicated a number of factors that predicted witness credibility and the trial outcome. The first set of factors predicting witness credibility relates to various demographic characteristics of the jurors. The second set of factors includes characteristics of the child complainant. In addition, jurors rated children’s treatment by defense lawyers as significantly less fair than their treatment by either the judges or the prosecutors. The court’s treatment of the defendant was overwhelming perceived by jurors to be fair and respectful and in line with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This study sought to explore jurors’ perceptions of the special measures, such as CCTV and prerecorded evidence, involved in the Child Sexual Assault Specialist Jurisdiction, the reasons for their use, the fairness of the trial process for both the child complainants and the defendants, and their perceptions of child complainants in these matters. The study was conducted with the use of a questionnaire completed by jurors at the end of child sexual assault trials heard at four District Courts in Sydney between May 2004 and December 2005. Tables, notes, references and appendixes 1-2
New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
Level 8, St James Centre, 111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney NSW 2000 Australia, Australia
NSW Crime and Justice Bulletin, Number 102, September 2006