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High court judge suggests frequent acquittals due to societal problems affecting jurors

Published:Sunday | May 31, 2015 | 5:33 PM

A High Court judge is suggesting that the high rate of acquittals in sexual offence cases is due to the impact of societal issues on jurors, rather than a problem with the judicial system.

Speaking at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights late last week at the CRU Bar and Kitchen in St Andrew, Supreme Court Judge Courtney Daye indicated that women, who make up the majority of jurors, needed to be better exposed to facts and to be empowered.

Making reference to a study he conducted in  2008, Daye noted that the accused was acquitted in 66 per cent of sexual offence cases.

Although cautioning that there was no clear cause for the high number of acquittals, he says those complaining have often pointed to the high number of women jurors, who make up about 62% of total jurors.

He says jurors are often influenced by socio-economic circumstances and their cultural beliefs and attitudes. He notes, for example, that particularly rape cases, where the victim was not supported by her parents or caregivers and the accused provided economic support, the mostly women jurors are more likely to be sympathetic and that was likely to influence their verdict.

He says while other factors, including jurors' understanding of the law, were questioned in the study, jurors indicated that they understood the law; the instruction of judges and the evidence presented.