National recognition for student’s social justice research

12 Dec 2017

Bachelor of Arts/Laws student Zoe Brereton has been awarded the Australian Academy of Law prize for her presentation, Sex, Lies and False Promises in India: Rape by Fraud? at the 2017 National Law Honours Student Conference in Sydney.

Ms Zoe Brereton and the Hon. Justice
Alan Robertson and
the Hon. Kevin Lindgren AM QC

Ms Brereton’s work was based on research that she conducted while in India in 2016 and explores how concepts of culture and morality influence judicial interpretations of consent to sexual intercourse.

She said much of the knowledge she gained on the topic was through experiences such as talking to rape victims as well as members of the police force and the judiciary.

“In particular, I looked at a category of rape cases called ‘rape by false promise of marriage’, whereby a lie as to the accused’s present intention to marry (in order to induce pre-marital consent) may vitiate consent,” she said.

“I talked about my methodology, which involved trawling through the National Archives in Delhi in search of Lord Macaulay’s draft notes on ‘consent’ from 1830, then analysing recent judgments to determine the factors relied upon by the trial judge in making a finding of guilt or innocence.

“Whether it be to ensure that useful research findings and ideas are disseminated to the wider public, permitting the law to be reformed in a principled and evidence-based manner, or purely for individual feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of an argument, we were able to learn a great deal from each other’s presentations at the Conference.”

With a strong interest in social justice, Ms Brereton hopes to work in the fields of international humanitarian law and human rights law when she graduates.

UQ law students Rebecca Scott and Angus Dick joined Ms Brereton at the Conference and presented on the topics of the prosecution of rape and sexual assault in Queensland, and the use of informants and whistle-blowers in combating corruption in Indonesia.

Ms Scott said the Conference was a wonderful opportunity to not only learn about emerging legal issues in both interstate and international jurisdictions, but to network with other law students and researchers.

“I was able to discuss my project with academics from the University of Technology Sydney, who suggested pursuing publication, and now as a result of the conference I am working on an article to submit to the Alternative Law Journal about my research,” she said.

“I hope the research can help start conversations in the academic and public policy community around how the experience of victims of sexual violence can be improved through the criminal justice process in Queensland.”

The National Law Honours Student Conference is an opportunity for students from across Australia to present their law honour research, senior research thesis or other major research projects to colleagues, senior academics, members of the judiciary and the bar.

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