Edge Hill academic Paul Reynolds has been awarded funding to investigate the application of The Sexual Offences Act 2003 to the law on rape.

Mr Reynolds, who is programme leader in Sociology and Social Psychology, has been awarded a grant by the British Academy to research and write the paper on ‘The Sexual Offences Act 2003 and Rape Law: A Study of Legislative Impact on the Judicial Process of Rape Trials?.

The Act was implemented in May 2004 and one of its most significant changes sees the introduction of a test of equal reasonableness into the law on consent.

“In the past a women?s account of events was a key determinant in rape trials, leaving her open to the ‘double jeopardy? of being challenged and having to relive the rape in court whilst the man could claim he ‘honestly believed? she was consenting,” said Mr Reynolds, whose writings and research explores sexuality, law, politics and ethics, in the cause of sexual equality, rights and justice. “The 2003 Act introduces the idea of free agreement, to ensure that both stories are given equal weighting in a court of law, which should put the onus more onto men to explain their actions and why the rape claim has been brought.

“Whether this has actually transpired to be the case is open to debate and that is exactly what I intend to investigate over the next year or so.”

During his research, Mr Reynolds will observe rape trials in Liverpool and London, examine court transcripts and documents and interview key actors in the judicial process. Should his findings raising questions with regards to the implementation of the Act, he hopes to feed them into the review process at the Home Office.

“I wouldn?t be embarking on this research if I didn?t harbour the inclination that legal practice lags behind change in the law, but I?ll be studying trials with an open mind and hopefully will provide valuable evidence as to what is working and what might require further action.”

Mr Reynolds will also be organising a series of seminars on aspects of the Act up and down the country during his period of research.