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Joint trials and prejudice: A review and critique of the Report to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sex Abuse
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2018, 00:00 by Peter Robinson
One of the lesser known tasks of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is to investigate responses within the legal system to allegations of such abuse, including the procedural and evidentiary rules surrounding joinder of complaints by multiple complainants against the same defendant. The Commission itself commissioned an empirical study and a report on the effects of joinder of charges on jury reasoning and decision making, which, at over 370 pages in length is quite demanding to digest, and, we would argue, open to criticism on methodological and interpretive grounds. This article reviews and critiques the report’s methodology and findings, and argues for interpretations and conclusions contrary to those contained in the report, to the effect that the study did provide significant evidence supporting the prejudicial effect of joinder and failed to adequately controvert theories of prejudice through character bias, accumulation prejudice and inter-case conflation of evidence.