Abstract

Despite widespread reforms to legislation and policy, rape complainants still find cross-examination distressing, demeaning and humiliating. We conducted a systematic and holistic examination of cross-examination strategies to discern: (1) the range of tactics that defence lawyers use to challenge rape complainants’ accounts; and (2) whether—and if so, how—the approaches used currently differ from those used prior to the reforms. We compared the strategies and tactics used in cases that were prosecuted in the 1950s to those used in cases from the turn of the twenty-first century. Although contemporary complainants were subjected to lengthier cross-examinations involving a broader range of tactics than their historical counterparts, there was little difference in the breakdown of strategies and tactics across time periods.

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