Thursday, November 24, 2005

A lot in the news about rape prosecutions

Seem to be a real plethora of stories about at the moment, most of them depressingly predictable and likely to encourage women up and down the country to not bother reporting the disgusting crimes perpetrated against them.

Firstly the judge has thrown out a case involving two students in Aberystwyth. The situation is a little complicated insofaras the victim was so drunk she can't remember exactly what happened. The judge has thrown the case out claiming that since she can't remember she may have consented and that despite being drunk to the point of total incapacity, that alleged consent should hold. They're missing a key point - the law now requires that the burden of proof fall to the defence to prove that she did consent. They of course have not one scrap of evidence to support this case. Still, if she was drunk she probably deserved it eh?...

The evidence that she is unlikely to have consented is strong: the sex took place in a corridor, few women's location of choice, the victim asked the defendent to walk her home specifically because she was afraid of being attacked and concerned that she was too drunk to look after herself, the victim has subsequently said there is no way she would have consented. Furthermore it's fairly obvious to me that she wasn't in a condition to provide consent. Having sex with an unconscious woman IS rape. Even if she wasn't fully unconscious, it's obvious from the fact that she asked for help getting home that she felt unable to take care of herself.

A second case is at least a little more promising. A woman in Sheffield who was raped (allegedly...) on her way home in a minicab has won the first round of the battle to have him prosecuted. The case here couldn't be clearer. She called the police the minute she got home, there was no delay in reporting the incident. The police told her they wouldn't be able to prosecute because (1) she didn't have enough physical signs of trauma, (2) there were no witnesses and (3) she had a previous conviction for a violent crime. Outrageous in itself. Once again the very least that should happen is that a court should be allowed to decide whose evidence seems the more reliable. Now it emerges that the woman doesn't have any previous convictions and they just made a data error.

Thirdly in case we were in any doubt as to the police's attitude to rape... a particularly violent and unpleasant case of a woman raped (allegedly...) at the hands of two policemen! They deny the charges, she's aborted a child she wanted because she was afraid it might be one of theirs. One of them denies another count of rape against another woman...

The BBC have also got an interview with a rape victim who didn't prosecute explaining why she decided not to. Her reasons are frighteningly predictable: wouldn't be believed, knew about the low conviction rate, etc. Every time this happens, or a case is thrown out or the CPS refuse to prosecute, that's one more rapist on the loose in our society AND a clear message being sent out to other potential rapists that they will get away with it.

And there's been a fair amount of discussion on here on the subject too.


MuppetLord said...

I think these are difficult subjects to comment on.

Re: Case#1 - what was the woman doing getting so drunk she can't remember what happened? How many women are raped whilst in this state?

case#2 - what on earth was with the 'previous conviction' comment? Shoddy work.

case#3 - how did they become policemen in the first place??

case#4 - the decision was made not to go to the police...thereby making things worse...i.e. nothing being done.

Personally, I think rapists should be dropped on like a ton of bricks...but it depends on the reports being made, and a duty to investigate the facts. Otherwise things will either remain as they are, or indeed get worse.

Cruella said...

1) A lot of women are raped while they're very drunk. Personally though I've never been raped I've been in a state where I've forgotten parts some of what happened the night before. Particularly when I was a student. Getting that drunk is kindof part of being a student. You try these things out, I don't think the fourth or fifth beer constitutes open season for rape though! She very sensibly asked someone she knew to help her home. Then things went wrong.

2) Even if she did have a previous conviction. Just because someone's been caught shoplifting fifteen years ago, I think they still deserve the chance to take their case to trial.

3) The same way hundreds of others do... We've seen the documentaries on racism in the force and we've seen lots of cases of female police officers claiming the environment is deeply misogynist. Checks that are made are a farce and one group covers up for another. Senior people recruit juniors who agree with their own unpleasant views.

4) I have enormous sympathy with women who don't go to the police. Firstly it'll take up a huge chunk of your life. Secondly it will with 94% certainty lead to no conviction. Plus there is the shame involved. You won't be believed. And if you're crying rape and no-one believes you, the implication must be that you WANTED and CONSENTED to sex with someone you hate. It's a horrible process to go through. Add in other factors, like religious parents, a jealous partner, fears about AIDS and STDs... I can well imagine women choosing not to report. Statistics suggest that 75% of women who are raped in this country do not report.

And yes, the situation is way out of hand and a lot more than just a smattering of government rhetoric and setting up a couple of witness shelters is needed. A change of attitude across the media would help too.