Scotland removing juries from rape trials?
I strongly disagree with the proposal to take away juries from rape trials in Scotland because of my own experiences.
In 2005, my 15-year-old daughter was raped and it went to trial in 2006. The police investigation was incompetent and they lost vital evidence. For example, it came to light during the trial that police hadn’t saved phone evidence of him setting her up to meet. The CPS barrister was useless and the DPP later apologised for this. This same barrister later became a rape-ticketed judge.
The judge was an absolute disgrace and shockingly biased in what he allowed and disallowed in court. He made comments such as my daughter’s clothes weren’t ripped, she didn’t have any bruises, and instructed the jury to disregard her age as irrelevant though she was underage and the man was 29. He told the jury that the accused was an honest man with a clean record, but we later found out that he had a criminal record, and that another girl had reported him for rape.
The rapist had threatened my daughter with throwing acid in her face if she testified against him, later claiming that he’d never left the house that day, but his girlfriend contradicted him in court saying he’d gone out. The girlfriend asked for a screen when she gave evidence because she was scared of him but the judge refused her.
The judge then directed the jury to disregard her evidence because it contradicted an earlier statement she made under duress from the rapist. It was really brave of her to give evidence but the judge undermined her testimony. He also allowed the defence to trash my daughter, accusing her of being loose and sleeping around – which was totally untrue and in any case irrelevant. Having never been through a court case before my family were in total shock at how biased the judge was. We made a formal complaint but he retired so no action was taken.
The jury were out for three days trying to reach a verdict, with the judge pushing them for a unanimous decision saying he didn’t want it to go past the weekend; then he asked for a majority. This must have been really hard for them as the police had lost factual evidence and witnesses were not interviewed. With half the puzzle missing, the man was acquitted.
Since then, as a volunteer with Women Against Rape I have been to several trials supporting victims and I have witnessed many failures. In one rape trial a witness for the accused was allowed to sit in the public gallery before she testified; when she was called she’d obviously changed her story on the basis of what the accused said in court. We gave a note to the judge explaining what had just happened, but he refused to dismiss the woman’s tainted evidence and the man was acquitted.
Juries will only convict if they’re given the evidence. From my experience the police do not gather the evidence, the CPS don’t press them for it and don’t prosecute with conviction, and the judges undermine victims. No wonder juries don’t convict.
That’s why I’m against removing juries from rape trials. Members of the public are not more sexist and biased than the police, CPS, and judges who ensure rapists walk free to rape again. Most juries are more concerned with getting to the truth than the professionals who run the system. They should be better served not removed.
Melanie (not her real name), Women Against Rape, via email