Partisan Allegiance and Sentencing Decisions in Legal Cases Involving Sexual Assault
The proposed study will evaluate the potential presence of partisan allegiance in 400 Canadian legal cases from English speaking provinces. Written judiciary sentencing decisions on sexual assault cases will be retrieved from the public domain website of the Canadian Legal Information Institute (https://www.canlii.org/). Search terms will include “sexual assault” and “risk assessment” and each sentencing decision will be reviewed and a series of variables will be coded. Further criteria to determine inclusion in the sample comprise that legal proceedings must include a risk assessment by a psychologist or psychiatrist retained by the defense, prosecution, or both. Although the type of risk assessment will not be considered in this study, only cases that indicate a risk measure has been completed and either a level of risk (low, moderate, or high-risk) or a numerical value (e.g., percentile rank) was reported. There are two primary objectives in this study. First, the potential presence of partisan allegiance will be examined. The researcher will code relevant and available information within the cases and apply a validated, actuarial risk measure (Static-99). This approach will be taken to obtain an objective evaluation of risk level and to determine whether discrepancies exists in evaluators’ assessments. Second, the association between the sentencing outcome and the risk evaluation will be assessed to determine whether judges rely upon the information provided by risk assessments. Also, judges’ preference upon expert reports provided by the defense or prosecution will be examined.
Discipline: Psychology (Honours)
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Sandy Jung