PEI

Police officers, judges wanted for UPEI study on dealing with sexual assault cases

A new study at the University of Prince Edward Island is looking for police officers and judges willing to discuss their experiences of dealing with sexual assault cases.

'We might be able to move into better practices'

The study hopes to speak to at least 10 P.E.I. police officers and 10 judges about their experiences dealing with sexual assault cases. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

A new study at the University of Prince Edward Island is looking for police officers and judges willing to discuss their experiences of dealing with sexual assault cases.

Psychology professor Colleen MacQuarrie told CBC News the study is part of an honours paper by one of her students.

"There is a lack of understanding of how police officers as well as justices carry out their roles," said MacQuarrie.

"We want to get at their understanding of their role."

A better understanding of the process could make it easier to support investigations, says Colleen MacQuarrie. (CBC)

The study will focus on P.E.I. police officers in particular, but will interview judges across the country, because there are not enough judges on the Island to ensure the anonymity of individuals.

MacQuarrie said it is important to understand how the process works in order to improve it.

"What exactly is it like to try to put together a case in the context of sexual violence," said MacQuarrie.

"If we have a better understanding of what it's like to be a police officer trying to carry out that case then we might be able to move into better practices for our community as well as support investigations."

'Strong laws'

There is a disconnect between the laws as they are written and public confidence in them, MacQuarrie said. She and her student hope a better understanding of how those laws are implemented will lead to improvements.

"There's a cultural gap. We've got strong laws, and then we have a cultural gap as to how our community is responding," she said.

"How did we end up in this situation where people are feeling like their experiences as victims aren't being honoured."

MacQuarrie and her student hope to talk to a minimum of 10 police officers and 10 judges. The research would be written up and presented in the spring.

With files from Laura Chapin