Expert evidence as context: historical patterns and contemporary attitudes in the prosecution of sexual offences

Fiona E. Raitt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In H.M. Advocate v. Grimmond 1 the judge in a Scottish High Court trial refused permission for expert psychological evidence to be admitted on behalf of the Crown in a prosecution involving sexual offences against two children. The Crown had sought to lead an expert witness to explain to the jury about patterns of disclosure in child sexual abuse cases. The case was remarkable, not so much for the strict application of the longstanding rule in R. v. Turner that constrains the use in the courtroom of expert evidence from the behavioural sciences, but for the way in which the arguments presented by the Crown in Grimmond resonate with enduring feminist critiques regarding the treatment of women in rape trials. The theoretical issues raised by the decision include the quest for context to counter rigid evidential frameworks, and the choice of a child sexual abuse case as the medium for challenging the boundaries of the admissibility of expert evidence in the courtroom. The ramifications of Grimmond are tangible as legislation intended to benefit children and women has already been enacted by the Scottish Parliament to ameliorate the effects of the decision. This article suggests that while this legislation should be given a cautious welcome it remains to be seen whether the heralded benefits will actually materialise.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)233-244
    Number of pages12
    JournalFeminist Legal Studies
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • Child sexual abuse
    • Credibility
    • Expert evidence
    • Feminist critique
    • Sexual offences
    • Social framework evidence
    • Rape trials


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