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The Doctrine of Corroboration in Sexual Assault Trials in Early Twentieth-Century Canada and Australia

Queen's Law Journal 26:2 (Spring 2001) 297-338

42 Pages Posted: 11 May 2013  

Constance B. Backhouse

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

The author compares two early twentieth century criminal cases, one Australian and one Canadian, involving carnal knowledge of a child. The cases illustrate the parallel development of the doctrine of corroboration in sexual assault cases in the two countries – a doctrine which was based on the belief that the testimony of women and girls in such cases was inherently suspect. By requiring that corroborating evidence be independent of the complainant's testimony, and by interpreting that requirement in an extremely rigid way to exclude particular items of evidence that strongly supported the complaints, the courts in both cases imposed unjustified obstacles to the conviction of men accused of sexual offences. This misuse of the doctrine of corroboration contradicted the ideals of evenhanded justice and gender equality in both Canada and Australia.

Keywords: 1900s, twentieth, 20th, century, history, historical, Australia, Canada, Australian, Canadian, carnal knowledge, child, doctrine of corroboration, sexual assault cases, testimony, women, evidence, complainant, criminal law, crime, offence, gender, equality

Suggested Citation

Backhouse, Constance B., The Doctrine of Corroboration in Sexual Assault Trials in Early Twentieth-Century Canada and Australia (2001). Queen's Law Journal 26:2 (Spring 2001) 297-338. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2263410

Constance B. Backhouse (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5
Canada

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