The judge’s summing up consists of two parts: directions in relation to the law, and a summary of the evidence.

Directions of the Law

When the judge gives directions to the jury, they are obliged to follow those directions. The most important direction is about the burden and standard of proof (below). The Crown Court Bench Book provides a very comprehensive guide to the directions that judges should give at trial, and the particular words that they should use in those directions.

Directions on sexual violence cases

In a case involving sexual violence, there may be further directions that are very important. The courts are alert to the fact that some people make assumptions about the victims of sexual offences, and those who are accused of such crimes.
The judge, in her or his summing up, will tell the jury to deal with the case without bias or resorting to stereotypes and may direct them as follows:
  • To avoid making assumptions based on stereotypes as to who a ‘typical victim’ is or how they behave.
  • That the experience of rape or a sexual assault may be as traumatic if the complainant and defendant know each other as if they are strangers.
  • To avoid preconceived views as to how a complainant will react to the experience of sexual assault, that some complainants will display signs of distress and others will not.
  • That it would be wrong to assume that a complainant will always report the offence immediately. A late complaint, or delay in reporting, does not necessarily mean a complaint is false.
  • That there is no requirement in law that sexual assault be accompanied by force or threats of force for the defendant to be found guilty.
  • That there is no typical response to being sexually assaulted. The complainant not ‘fighting back’ should not be taken to mean that she consented to the sexual activity.
  • Not to assume that where there is inconsistency in the complaint, that this means that the account is necessarily untrue. It depends on the circumstances and the individual, and quality of memories can be affected by trauma.

Summary of evidence

The judge will also give a summary of the evidence. The judge must be fair to both the prosecution and defence when summarising the evidence. The judge is entitled to keep the summary brief and not mention every point raised at trial as long no bias is shown to one particular side, any particular witnesses, or particular pieces of evidence.