Countering misconceptions in child sexual assault cases with expert evidence and judicial directions

This is a joint project between UNSW and Charles Sturt University.

Low conviction rates in child sexual assault cases have been linked to jury misunderstandings of the child's evidence. As well, rules allowing expert evidence remain underused as lawyers and courts lack information about best practices. This study empirically documents the nature of jurors' pretrial misconceptions about children's memory and responses to child sexual abuse. It then compares the effectiveness of specialised knowledge presented via expert evidence or a unique judicial direction in countering these misconceptions. Results will permit evidence-based policy recommendations on the best mode of delivery of specialised knowledge to juries about child development and behaviour that is congruent with contemporary Australian rules of evidence and procedure.