This blog post has been contributed by Ms Amber Marks, Module Convenor for Evidence.
The trial of Harvey Weinstein in the United States has fuelled controversy over the difficulties women continue to face in prosecuting allegations of sexual abuse as well as debates over the probative vs prejudicial value of bad character evidence.
In studying the topic of sexual history evidence we often focus on rape myths about women that may make the process of reporting a rape, and providing evidence at trial, difficult for women rape victims. The recent conviction of serial rapist Reynhard Sinaga is shifting the public focus to the suffering of male victims of rape. There are a wide range of campaigns to raise awareness of male suffering. The low conviction rate in rape cases and the persistence of rape myths affect all of us, underlying the importance of getting the law right in this area of evidence law, for victims of rape of both genders.
Even the burden of proof has been the subject of media stories this year. A debate has arisen as to the appropriate standard of proof in the disciplinary procedures of the Football Association. Although beyond the scope of this course, this debate make for a refreshingly different context in which to think about the importance of standards of proof!
Expert Evidence has once again been a frequent source of concern in the news, on account of sustained concerns about the quality of forensic science . This underlines the urgent need for lawyers to improve their understanding of scientific methods, so that they are better equipped to identify weaknesses in the evidence presented.. Indeed a recent report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, Forensic Science and the Criminal Justice System: a blueprint for change (May 2019) made the following recommendation:
“We recommend that all advocates practising in the criminal courts should, as part of their continuing professional development, be required to undertake training in the use of scientific evidence in court and basic scientific principles such as probability, scientific inference and research methods.”