The old adage that justice is blind may be false. A study has revealed that attractive people are more likely to be acquitted and receive more lenient sentences than less attractive counterparts.

The study by Bath Spa University, presented at the British Psychological Society conference in York, asked a panel of "jurors" to assess 96 "defendants" who had been rated by their attractiveness. When asked to read identical court transcripts of an alleged mugging, the jurors were 50 per cent more likely to believe the defence of attractive people.They were also prepared to pass twice as long a sentence on a less attractive defendant.

Sandie Taylor, who led the research, said it proved it was hard for people to leave their prejudices behind in a courtroom. Attitudes to attractiveness appeared to be hardwired, she said.

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