Partisan allegiance in legal cases involving sexual assault
The present study evaluates the potential presence of partisan allegiance in 261 English legal cases from Canadian provinces. Judicial sentencing decisions for sexual assault offences were assessed to determine whether the risk level communicated by defense and prosecution-retained evaluators reflect the presence of partisan allegiance (i.e., defense providing lower risk scores and prosecution providing higher risk scores). A validated risk measure (Static-99R) was used by the researcher to assess each sentenced defendant based on the information provided in the written decision and served as an anchor (i.e., objective assessment of risk). The risk levels for each defendant based on the Static-99R and what was noted in the sentencing decisions, were used to determine if there existed any discrepancy in the reporting of risk levels depending on the evaluator allegiance. Sentencing cases were identified from a publicly accessible website, Canadian Legal Information Institute, using a series of search terms (e.g., “sexual assault” and “risk assessment”). Only sentencing decisions that involved a contact sexual offense by a male offender who was 18 years or older and at least one risk assessment conducted by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or probation officer were included in the sample. The data collection has been completed and results are forthcoming. This presentation will examine whether the conclusions of evaluators are similar to or deviate from an objective assessment of sexual violence risk and whether there is a relationship between the evaluators’ assessment and sentencing decisions for sexual assault cases in Canada.
Faculty Mentor: Sandy Jung
Department: Psychology (Honours)