BBC 2’S The Verdict

// 12 February 2007

Controversy reigns over the new BBC 2 programme which claims to be ground-breaking (despite the Channel 4 similar version a few weeks ago) and to explore the role of jurists. Unfortunately a few things that might give pause for thought:

1. at least three members of the jury would be disbarred from jury service because of their own criminal records. One of those has been convicted of violence against women.

2. the show has been constructed without taking advice from groups who know about sexual violence including the government’s own Sexual Assault Referral Centres and others who specialise in this setting. Similarly no specialist group dealing with false allegations has been consulted.

3. Stan Collymore would be further disbarred because of his proximity to the defendant – that is for having been a footballer.

4. The programme has not yet mentioned that we have a 5.8% conviction rate for rape (that is that of rapes reported to the Police only 5.8% end in conviction). In this climate is it responsible to show a programme which will, so far, put women off reporting rape because of the treatment of the complainant?

5. What is has shown is possibly one of the reasons for the low conviction rate – the discussions show jurists rely more on their own predetermined views than on the evidence shown to them and are unwilling to engage in open debate but would rather rely on barracking each other in an attempt to “persuade” (or browbeat) “agreement” (or compliance). If you watch carefully those who dominate the conversation are the men, leaving those with most experience of sexual violence silent and marginalised.

6. Is this suitably researched and constructively edited to ask questions or is it simply entertainment? My feeling is it’s not walking the fine line well and it just entertainment in which case is this a responsible and suitable topic for entertainment. Perhaps we should just cut the quasi-academic social experiement bit and move straight to showing rape on TV (which we already do an awful lot).

7. Why did the BBC choose to edit out all the expert evidence on, for example, the DNA evidence and forensic science evidence on the clothing? It reproduced, instead, ridiculous notions such as if there are no bruises it can’t be rape, if the clothing isn’t ripped it can’t be rape and so forth. Rape is not mostly carried out by the “mad, bad or dangerous” in deserted alleyways with rapists wearing dirty macs. It is carried out by otherwise unremarkable men in a myriad of settings and is a question of power and not sex (two of the jurists have already claimed it can’t be rape because footballers can always get sex. That may be true but they can’t always get the rush caused when one person uses their superior strength, knowledge and their mates to subdue and force another to do what they want. Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about force, control and power).

8. Given the BBC has at its’ disposal the ability to get “expert” advice from SARCs and other groups working with sexual violence (and those working in false complaint organisations) why has it selected to “dumb down” and treat the audience as if it wouldn’t understand the input of these people. A better programme would have included this.

What can you do? Keeping your entries to only 40 words (a nice tactic to silence critics) make a response to the BBC’s website. If we flood the website with comments as well as the BBCs viewer phone line hopefully we can make them reconsider programming of this nature. The response form is at this site . London Feminist Network has already had a demonstration at White City about this and more feminist events are planned.

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