Sexual assault complainants on the stand: a historical comparison of courtroom questioning
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Because most cases of alleged sexual assault involve few sources of evidence, the complainant’s testimony is crucial. In line with empirical research findings, the way in which police question sexual assault complainants has evolved to ultimately maximise both the completeness and accuracy of evidence. But has courtroom questioning changed over time? To answer this question, we compared the courtroom questioning of sexual assault complainants in the 1950s to that used in cases from the turn of the twenty-first century. Overall, lawyers in contemporary cases asked complainants more questions and uttered more words than they did historically. Complainants, too, appear to have become more vocal over time. Across the two time periods, the questioning style used by prosecuting lawyers has shifted towards a more open style. In stark contrast, the format of cross-examination questions has remained remarkably consistent over time, with leading questions still making up the bulk of the questions asked. These findings have important implications for future legal reform and legal practice.
Psychology, Crime and Law
Social and Community Psychology
Historical Studies not elsewhere classified