Students call for disciplinary procedure reformation
The criminal standard of proof is being called into question
C/N- Discussion of sexual assault
The Women's campaign have launched a petition for the 'University to reform its disciplinary procedure in student cases so that decisions made by the Discipline Committee no longer rely on a criminal standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) but the balance of probabilities.'
What this means is for disciplinary action to be taken against students, it simply needs to be proved that it is more than 50% likely that they are guilty rather than prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The petition accuses the current system of being 'archaic and inaccessible' and points out that the 'University of Cambridge is not a criminal court and it should not behave as such.'
It points out that 'The current procedure places undue stress on 'complaints' to prove, as if they were in a court of law, that the alleged incident took place' and hope that the new system would 'give survivors and victims of sexual assault more confidence to access it.' The petition accuses the current system of discouraging 'victims of sexual harassment, rape and assault from engaging with the disciplinary procedure.'
Recently, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Virgo has admitted there is a 'significant problem involving sexual misconduct' at the university. This comes after the success of the universities anonymous reporting form in encouraging reports of sexual assault. 173 reports were made between May 2017 and 31 January 2018. It is thought that the anonymised platform and 'Breaking the Silence' campaign contributed to encouraging victims to come forward.
However, the petition points out that 'far fewer individuals chose to access any formal disciplinary routes' and argued that this 'demonstrates a lack of trust in the institution's ability to deal with these cases robustly'.
Cambridge is currently the only UK university that requires disciplinary matters to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, to a criminal standard of proof.
The University has responded to the petition saying 'The Universities disciplinary procedures are currently under review and any feedback received through students and staff will be carefully considered and form part of the discussion around improvements that should be made to the disciplinary procedures.'
They also highlighted that 'Currently, the University has a wide range of support and reporting mechanisms available' which have been designed with advice and support from 'the University community and specialist organisations including Cambridge Rape Crisis centre.'
It asserted its dedication to 'continue to work to improve the prevention, response, support and investigation of all instances of harassment and sexual misconduct; and to enable staff and students to feel self in making disclosures.'