Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Don Thomson

Abstract

This research investigated whether expert evidence pertaining to Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) influences juror verdicts the legal requirements of self defence (imminence, proportionality and an attempt to retreat from the situation) are generally not met in cases where battered women kill their partner: The killings do not immediately follow the attack, the force used is not proportionate to the attack and there is often no previous attempt to retreat from the situation. BWS expert psychological evidence has been admitted by Australian Courts to provide jurors with an alternative perspective for determining whether a woman's actions were reasonable in the given context. It is unclear whether the admission of such “myth-dispelling" evidence is necessary. A written summary of a trial transcript was given to 160 participants (80 male and 80 female), each of whom contributed to one of sixteen conditions in a 2x4x2 design. The critical manipulations were as follows: the presence I absence of a defence I prosecution expert; whether or not the defendant had previously left the relationship; and sex of participant. The findings provide some suggestion that expert evidence about BWS does not significantly impact on verdict, although its effect may differ for males and females.

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