Sunday, 5 February 2012

Jury Directions in Sexual Assault Cases

There have been a number of appeals against rape convictions over the past two years on the grounds that the Judge erred in the directions to the jury.  This issue has raised its head again in The Age today with two of Victoria's leading jurists questioning the complexity and length of instructions from the Judge to a jury.  Victoria has lengthy and intricate jury directions that can lead to opening up the appeal avenue when a victim thinks their ordeal is over and justice has prevailed.

In 2009 The Law Reform Commission released a report on Jury Directions in Criminal Trials and made 52 recommendations. The Government is still considering its options in relation to these recommendations. In the interests of the small number of victims of sexual assault who pursue criminal sanctions this matter needs resolving.  The Director of Public Prosecutions has taken the Getachew case to the High Court to challenge the Victorian Court of Appeal's overturning the decision in this case.  Mr Getachew was sentenced to 4 years and 9 months jail for raping a woman whilst she was asleep.

Sexual assault victims report in small numbers.  Any confidence they have in the judicial system will slowly be eroded if appeals keep succeeding on the grounds of a misdirected jury when the victim clearly did not consent.

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