Professor Louise Ellison
Professor of Law
I joined the School of Law from the University of Manchester in 2003, having also previously taught at the University of Reading.
Victims/witnesses, credibility assessment, sexual violence, witness preparation, juries, access to justice.
Recent funded research projects include a study funded by the AHRC examining the impact of preparation on witness accuracy (with J. Wheatcroft) and an ESRC funded project exploring the impact of special measures use on rape juror deliberations (with V. Munro).
I teach in the areas of Evidence Law, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice.
I currently supervise PhDs exploring criminal justice responses to allegations of rape in Kuwait and juror understanding of DNA evidence.
I am keen to supervise promising students in any of my research areas:
criminal justice responses to sexual and domestic violence; victim policy; treatment of various victim / defendant populations including children, individuals with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other 'vulnerable' groups; the conduct of criminal trials; prosecutorial decision-making; the law of evidence; criminal law.
‘Taking Trauma Seriously: Critical Reflections on the Criminal Justice Process’, International Journal of Evidence and Proof 2016,
DOI: 10.1177/1365712716655168, Repository URL: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/100101/
Over the last two decades successive governments in England and Wales have stated a commitment to placing victims of crime at the heart of the criminal justice agenda. A raft of polices and reforming measures have been introduced with the declared aim of improving the experience and treatment of victims within the criminal process. Despite these developments, the Government has recently conceded that the criminal justice process has continued to fall short – whether in relation to helping victims to recover in the aftermath of a crime or supporting them through the stresses of investigation and trial. In this article we argue that applying a trauma-informed lens to evaluate victim-centred initiatives helps to explain the failure of victim policy in England and Wales to fully deliver on its promise. We highlight the barriers that experiences of trauma can present to effective victim participation and the extent to which current trial processes are often liable to exacerbate rather than ameliorate trauma amongst a broad constituency of victims.
‘Responding to the Needs of Victims with Psychosocial Disabilities: Challenges to Equality of Access to Justice’, Criminal Law Review -London- 2015, 28-47,
‘Telling tales': Exploring narratives of life and law within the (mock) jury room’, Legal Studies, 35.2 (2015), 201-225,
© 2014 The Society of Legal Scholars. Based on a findings of a simulation study in which 160 members of the public observed a mini rape trial re-enactment and were then asked to deliberate in jury groups towards a unanimous verdict, this paper explores the extent to which participants were able, and willing, to understand and apply judicial directions, and the legal tests or criteria contained therein. More specifically, it reflects on whether the additional provision of written directions in the jury room influenced the tone or direction of jurors' discussions, and illustrates the limited recourse made by participants to their contents, as well as their tendency to misinterpret or misapply them when they were relied upon. Having done so, this paper moves on to explore the reasons behind this limited impact, suggesting that fundamental tensions may exist between legal and lay imaginaries, such that jurors are reluctant to jettison their more natural inclinations to reach individual and collective verdicts on the basis of narrative constructions grounded in 'common sense' and 'personal experience'.
‘Challenging criminal justice? Psychosocial disability and rape victimization’, Criminology and Criminal Justice, 15.2 (2015), 225-244,
© The Author(s) 2014 In a context in which research evidence indicates high rates of alleged sexual victimization among adults with psychosocial disabilities, this article draws upon rape allegation data collected by the Metropolitan Police Service in April and May 2012, to explore some of the challenges that are posed to the criminal justice system by these types of complainants. Although the insights that can be generated from these data in relation to complainants with psychosocial disabilities are limited, in the context of this article it provides a valuable snapshot into contemporary patterns of rape victimization and attrition in England and Wales. It also serves as a useful stepping off point from which to highlight the need for more sustained critical research and reflection on the treatment of complainants, and the adequacy of police and prosecutor training and practice in this area.
‘A 'Special' Delivery? Exploring the Impact of Screens, Live-Links and Video-Recorded Evidence on Mock Juror Deliberation in Rape Trials’, Social and Legal Studies, 23.1 (2014), 3-29,
This article discusses the findings of a study in which 160 volunteer members of the public observed one of four mini rape trial reconstructions and were asked to deliberate as a group towards a verdict. In a context in which research into the substantive content of the deliberations of real jurors is prohibited by the Contempt of Court Act 1981, these discussions were analysed to assess whether, and in what ways, perceptions of adult rape testimony are influenced by different modes of presentation. While lawyers and other observers have speculated about the possible undue effects of alternative trial arrangements on juror perceptions and the evaluation of evidence in rape trials, the issue has received scant empirical attention. In an effort to bridge this knowledge gap, this study investigated the influence upon mock jurors of three special measures currently made available in England and Wales to adult sexual offence complainants by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, namely (1) live-links; (2) video-recorded evidence-in-chief followed by live-link cross-examination and (3) protective screens. Following a careful and contextual exploration of the content of the mock juries' deliberations, the researchers conclude that there was no clear or consistent impact as a result of these divergent presentation modes, suggesting that concerns over the use of special measures by adult rape complainants (at least in terms of juror influence) may be overstated. © The Author(s) 2013.
‘Better the Devil You Know? ‘Real Rape’ Stereotypes and the Relevance of a Previous Relationship in (Mock) Juror Deliberations’, The International Journal of Evidence & Proof, 17.4 (2013), 299-322,
It has become commonplace in commentaries on the ‘justice gap’ in rape cases to lament the existence of a ‘real rape’ stereotype which prevents assaults involving known assailants, which take place in private spaces and perhaps without the use of additional physical violence, from being accepted as genuine and/or serious violations, whether by police, prosecutors or jurors. In previous work, we have urged caution lest too much reliance on the ‘real rape’ stereotype disguise the complexities at play in framing jurors' responses to rape cases involving acquaintances. In this article, we take these reflections further, drawing on a recent study conducted by the authors in which 160 members of the public were recruited and, having observed one of four mini trial reconstructions involving an alleged rape by the complainant's ex-partner, were divided into juries and asked to deliberate towards a verdict. Though the vast majority of our jurors were receptive, in principle, to the idea that a woman could be raped by a man with whom she had previously had a relationship—and indeed often noted the statistical prevalence of such assaults—participants continued to consider these cases to be ‘less clear-cut’, ‘more delicate’ and ‘a lot harder’ than rapes involving a stranger. In line with our previous findings in the context of acquaintance rapes, the fact of a familiarity between the trial parties created an opportunity for jurors to invoke and rely upon engrained expectations regarding resistance and sexual (mis)communication, which—when combined with persuasive strategies that interpreted the standard of proof as requiring nothing short of absolute certainty—mitigated against the likelihood of returning a guilty verdict. Significantly, though, as we will illustrate in this article, the fact of a previous intimate relationship interacted with these expectations in heightened and often quite specific ways to create new tropes.
‘A Stranger in the Bushes, or An Elephant in the Room? Critical Reflections Upon Received Rape Myth Wisdom in the Context of a Mock Jury Study’, New Criminal Law Review, 13.4 (2010), 781-801,
‘Turning Mirrors into Windows? Assessing the Impact of (Mock) Juror Education in Rape Trials’, British Journal of Criminology, 49.3 (2009), 363-383,