University expert on giving evidence at high court

Professor Clarissa Smith

Published on 22 November 2019

Professor Clarissa Smith, an expert in sexual cultures, was recently asked to lend her expertise during the murder trial of British backpacker Grace Millane.

A jury of seven women and five men took five hours to return a unanimous guilty verdict after a two-week trial of the 27-year-old killer - who cannot be named – which concluded at Auckland high court in New Zealand this week. 

Much of the case was centred on the sexual relationship between Ms Millane, 21, and the man accused of murdering her.

Professor Smith specialises in research into modern sexual practices and was called upon to give evidence from the UK via video link.

Professor Smith said: “I was approached and asked if I would lend a view on the discussion into the broader aspects of sexual culture so the jury were as well informed as they could be when it came to understanding certain kinds of practices.”

Ms Millane, from Wickford, Essex, met the man for a date in the centre of Auckland on December 1 2018. After several drinks, the pair returned to his apartment. She was killed either that night or in the early hours of the next morning - the date of her 22nd birthday.

Grace’s death prompted an outpouring of public grief in New Zealand with the country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologising to her family, her killer will be sentenced on February 21.

Professor Smith’s research revolves around issues relating to sex, sexual identities and sexual representations in contemporary culture.

The academic has given evidence in a number of high profile trials where sexual practices have been at the centre of the case.

Professor Smith has also carried out research and spoken out against Government plans to introduce a ‘Porn Block’ meaning X-rated websites will ask would-be viewers to prove their age in a bid to prevent under-18s accessing unsuitable material.