Anonymity for rape defendants?!

// 21 May 2010

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The government plans to grant defendants in rape trial anonymity, according to their coalition programme for government.

Details are slight, by which I mean one line saying:

We will extend anonymity in rape cases to defendants.

As the Press Gazette notes:

Such a change will have a sweeping effect on the way journalists report on such cases, rendering them difficult to cover until an alleged rapist has been convicted.

The Gazette goes on list a number of high profile rape cases where the defendant was found not guilty, such as Jack Tweed, Craig Charles and Quinten Hann.

However, as Kate points out, reporting of the arrest of taxi driver John Worboys led to many more women coming forward to report to the police that he had attacked them as well – he was found guilty of 12 rapes, but the police received reports from 85 women.

Good news is that the coalition document also proposes funding for up to 15 new rape crisis centres, and arrangements to put funding for rape crisis on a stable footing. However, there is nothing in the coalition document about any other changes to make a dent in the appallingly low rape conviction rate. David Cameron has spoken out against the low rape conviction rate. Yet the coalition document’s sole mention of reform in rape trials would introduce special protections for defendants in rape cases, which would surely cause an uproar if applied to other crimes.

As Ruth Hall from Women Against Rape notes:

Of course, being wrongly accused is a terrible ordeal but the same can be said of being wrongly accused of murder, theft, fraud or any other serious offence. We are against a special case where men accused of rape are singled out for special protection.

There is a Facebook group set up to oppose this plan.

Comments From You

Clare // Posted 21 May 2010 at 3:50 pm

Not wishing to be too contentious, but I really don’t think anyone charged with any crime should be named unless convicted – the media culture these days has far too much to do with justice and the only way to protect people who *are* actually innocent is not to cast that shadow over them before they’ve had the chance to a fair trial.

I’m sure if generalised reporting was still allowed it would have just as positive an effect on reporting – for example, if “taxi driver charged with rapes” and details around dates and locations were released it would still encourge other victims to come forward.

I am certainly not in favour of protecting rapists; the whole system from reporting to juries, needs to be overhauled to increase our pitiful conviction rate; and once found guilty I think they should be throughly named & shamed (and perhaps put on BEWARE posters).

I’m afraid I don’t have a source, but I’m sure it was ACPO information that said the majority of allegations which are certainly false do not have a perpetrator named, so it’s not like millions of wholely innocent men are being dragged through the media, but I think this should simply apply accross the board – that you are innocent, and anonymous, until proven guilty.

sianmarie // Posted 21 May 2010 at 4:06 pm

i commented about this on kate’s blog – i’m just appalled. it is so stupid that so much of public debate on rape focuses on ‘false accusations’ when the rate for that is lower in rape cases than car insurance fraud.

as kate says, naming defendents makes it easier for other women to come forward. and even if a man isn’t convicted, none of the men you mentioned above are really suffering career meltdown for the accusation. how many high profile footballers, boxers, sports stars, actors…all still doing just fine.

i’m so angry.

Josie // Posted 21 May 2010 at 4:12 pm

This made me think of the nursery manager who was accused of horrendously abusing the babies in her care – as it turns out, by spiteful bullying homophobic colleagues who had made up a pack of lies. Her life and career have been ruined just as surely as those of anyone falsely accused of rape. Why was it ok to publish her name and photo during the trial? And why should rape defendants be granted this special privilege? I find it very sinister that the Tories seem to feel rape defendants are owed these special measures

spiralsheep // Posted 21 May 2010 at 4:35 pm

“there is nothing in the coalition document about any other changes to make a dent in the appallingly low rape conviction rate.”

Actually, the proposed changes in the collection and use of dna evidence could also negatively impact on the already pitifully low conviction rate for rape. So the situation might be even worse than it already appears.

Kate // Posted 21 May 2010 at 4:38 pm

Before people jump in with the Tory bashing, this is a Lib Dem policy. It was passed at their conference in 2006 and was apparently thought important enough by the men in the negotiating room to make it into the government plan.

I hate this proposal, I’ve spent the past day being angry about it and am now totally worn out after being stupid enough to see what the misogynist on CIF had to say about it.

The govt should be prompted to act by the fact that 94% of reported rapes fail to end in conviction. But the fact that this is the sole proposal they’ve come out with is absurd. There is just no evidence that the number of false allegations is remotely high enough to justify such a move. What it will do though is further the myth that women do cry rape for fun. They are not proposing anonymity for any other crime. What in effect they are saying is that there is something about rape which makes the accuser unreliable and prone to lying. If they are prepared to go down this road why not fully embrace a misogynistic legal system and demand that a woman produce four male witnesses before a case can proceed?

Incidentally, I’m not feeling cheered by the Rape Crisis statement either. If you look in the document it’s not exactly expressed in committed terms.

Jack // Posted 21 May 2010 at 4:52 pm

It is impossible to draw clear comparisons between crimes such as murder, theft, fraud etc. and rape, as in the case of the former crimes, there is a clear crime committed without the need of an accusation to begin an investigation, for example, you can’t begin an investigation into a murder until you’re aware that someone has been murdered. This doesn’t need an accusation, although it may begin with one, but simply a body being found will do.

Rape is a quite special case of crime: one being that the victim actually needs to accuse her attacker in order for an investigation to begin. Furthermore, it is one of the few crimes of this nature where simply naming the accused can have an instantly terrible impact on the accused’s life, regardless of innocence.

So a rape investigation, and the subsequent destroying of the accused’s life, begins on the word of the supposed victim.

Now, you raise a good argument, that naming and shaming (because, lets not kid ourselves, this is what it is) those accused of rape regardless of innocence has helped in alerting previous victims to come forward and testify. However, this is only what occurs in a fraction of cases of this nature (much like only a fraction of rape cases lead to the victim being accused of a false rape claim). In reality, the majority of rape cases are inconclusive and the defendant is not convicted.

The ramifications for someone who has been accused of rape and pilloried in the media are wide-reaching. There are the financial difficulties and psychological trauma those at the end of rape claims face (naming a token footballer and claiming he is still happy, successful and rich is a poor example and not indicative of the majority of the experiences of the accused). Some lead to depression or self-harm, others lead to suicide. Where are the proposed crisis centres for these guys? The elephant in the room in terms of mental health at the moment is the staggering rate of young to middle-aged male suicides.

Anyone accused of rape will find it incredibly difficult finding work afterwards should they change jobs. It is common practice for an employer to Google a candidate’s name, and if the first 10 hits on Google are the stories of how this man was involved in a rape case, it can lead to immediate alarm bells ringing. Furthermore, any kind of allegation of sexual assault is recorded by the CRB, so the accused will never find work in a job where a CRB check is required. Bad news for teachers and other public sector workers.

You say the fact that naming and shaming those accused of rape has led to others coming forward in very much the minority of cases in worth paying the price of destroying someone’s life. Many people think otherwise.

Suraya // Posted 21 May 2010 at 5:19 pm

I think whether or not this is likely to increase or decrease rape reporting and convictions will depend on how far the name suppression extends – exactly how specific the press are allowed to get without naming the person. For example, if the press are able to report, ’39-year-old taxi driver in [city name] accused of…’ it may lead to more rapes, rather than fewer, being reported – that is to say, a woman would not feel that she was adamently stating that the person who raped her was necessarily the one named in the media.

It might also perhaps help avoid the situation, particularly a factor in smaller communities, where because the defendant is named, people can work out who the complainant is.

Jane O'Neill // Posted 21 May 2010 at 5:25 pm

I think there should be defendant anonymity for all serious offences. Naming and effectively shaming people who haven’t been convicted only serves the tabloids.

I don’t think citing the most extreme cases (such as John Worboys) is helpful. Most rapes are committed by men who know the victim. Do the cases were a violent, predatory and serial rapist is involved justify potentially ruining the lives of everyone who is accused of rape?

(And the movie and sports stars example of how lives aren’t ruined is as extreme as Worboys – people with money and talent clearly aren’t going to be ostracised from society as quickly as Joe Bloggs.)

The reaction to this proposal from some reminds me of Daily Mail-esque reactions to Muslim terrorism suspects not being publicly hanged – they don’t care how suspects are treated because it will never affect them.

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2010 at 5:27 pm

@Suraya It might also perhaps help avoid the situation, particularly a factor in smaller communities, where because the defendant is named, people can work out who the complainant is.

Current law already should protect victims from this as I understand it – if disclosing the name of the defendant means people can piece together the identity of the victim, the press should not legally report the defendant’s name.

Louisa // Posted 21 May 2010 at 5:42 pm

Actually, this strikes me as a good thing, not just for the accused men but for women.

As the above cases show, there are a number of cases where male celebrities are accused of rape and the jury has decided that the accusation is not true. Whilst this decision is not ours to speculate, it gives huge media publicity to the very prevalent idea that women make this sort of thing up all the time because in these cases it is what the jury has decided, and these are the cases anyone actually hears about.

Also, if there is no incentive to bring a celeb down by rape accusations (destroyed Craig Charles career at the time, didnt it) then that will probably make the jurors think differently about the case and be less suspicious of the girls motives. A case against a male celebrity without the glare of the media probably will be dealt with more efficiently and fairly towards the woman.

Its impossible for any of us, especially as we weren’t even in the jury, to ‘know’ what really happened in these high profile cases but what we definitely know is that the fallout was huge amounts of attention on an incedent where the man was deemed not guilty, which contributes to both making it harder for women to come forward because they’ll think the women never wins AND contributes to the idea that women who call rape are always making it up (because after all, happened with [insert male celeb here] didnt it?)

And its not just celebrity trials: the idea of a rape accusation as a “weapon” against anyone (particularly someone in a profession that involves caring for the young and vulnerable, someone with kids etc) is very prevalent; i remember reading a magazine article about some guy’s ‘rape accusation hell’ only a few months back and i’ve read them before. If it really didnt happen, its definitely unfair on the men involved because a rape accusation that everyone knows about is clearly hard to shake – but its also unfair on other women with real accusations to make. And if it did happen, well, why give incidents where he got off anyway publicity and clout?

Suraya // Posted 21 May 2010 at 5:44 pm

@Jess It’s good to know that there is probably something like that in law already, although if it’s not widely known, I expect that on its own will prevent women coming forward. All the more of a good thing that the new rape crisis centres *may* happen – more possibility that women will learn things like that and be able to take it into account in deciding whether to make a complaint.

Shea // Posted 21 May 2010 at 6:23 pm

This is too disgraceful for words. (As are the comments on CiF). As if women needed anymore discouragement from reporting rape.

Sadly I think it marks a taste of things to come.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:16 pm

Firstly before anyone claims false rape allegations are endemic – research consistently proves the percentage remains static between 2-8% in UK, US and Australian countries. Lisak et al conducted detailed methodological research and published the findings. So I fail to understand how the Stern Review claimed there was little evidence concerning this.

Secondly, instead of focusing on granting anonyminity to male defendants charged with rape the government should be implementing the innumerable recommendations which have been advocated. All these recommendations resulted from Home Office instigated research and The Stern Review was just another in a very, very large number of them.

No, instead the focus is always on ‘protecting’ male rights at the expense of women’s right not to be subjected to male sexual violence and then have to endure seeing these male perpetrators being excused/justified in their sexual crimes committed against women and girls.

Note too this is only a policy recommendation and hopefully there will be huge protest action from women’s organisations and feminists challenging this latest concerted attempt to reduce what little rights female rape survivors have achieved.

Remember male defendants are able to produce character witnesses in order to support their claim they are ‘respectable, law abiding citizens who would never, ever subject a woman to sexual violence. Female rape survivors are denied the right of producing their own character witnesses in order to rebut common defence counsel claims that the female rape survivor was/is ‘promiscuous/had an abortion/has/had a mental condition etc. Also, any counselling the female rape survivor has to be passed on to defence counsel. The counselling a female rape survivor is very, very limited prior to the court case because our law claims such counselling can be used to ‘coach’ a rape survivor.

Conveniently ignored is the fact male defendants as a matter of routine engage in innumerable conversations with their defence counsel in order decide on the best strategy plan/approach to take. Coaching? No it is merely defence preparing their case. Rape survivors are denied this and have no way of knowing just what course defence counsel will take when challenging their truthfulness. Add on the fact a rape survivor is not permitted to rebut defence claims, it is not surprising so many male rapists are not being convicted.

Remember 94% male rapists charged with rape are being acquitted and that does not take into account the numbers of men who each year commit rape against women and girls.

Link below takes the reader to the Lisak et al very, very detailed methodological research. I found it easily so why did not The Stern Review?

http://www.ndaa.org/publications/newsletters/the_voice_vol_3_no_1_2009.pdf

Jess McCabe // Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:39 pm

@Jane O’Neill The notion of banning the press from reporting on trials for all violent crime is an interesting one, but for me it’s far too much of an intrusion on freedom of the press. Already the restrictions on reporting trials (and in fact the whole process from arrest) are much heavier than you find in other countries, such as the US where trials are routinely broadcast on TV.

Often I don’t like the way that trials might get reported and the slant some of the media will put on a story, but that’s best addressed in other ways than simply banning the media from reporting on cases.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 21 May 2010 at 9:08 pm

i think this could get rid of a few bwlievers in women making stuff up, using that women are ruining mens lives with false reports. if only the very few men that are convicted get mentioned by name, then this accusation cannot be made. i hope there is anonymity for the accuser too? whether they are successful or not.

Legible Susan // Posted 21 May 2010 at 10:30 pm

Jennifer Drew,

“Remember 94% male rapists charged with rape are being acquitted” I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. Isn’t the statistic that 6% of cases end in conviction? That means some of those 94% (most of them, I expect) weren’t charged at all, because the police don’t catch the perpetrator or the CPS don’t think they have a high enough chance of conviction to bother.

Sara // Posted 22 May 2010 at 12:21 am

The fact of the matter is that there have been men whose livelihoods have been ruined by rape allegations that are untrue. How cruel of you not to give a thought to how horrible this must be for the men involved. We are all human beings and we all deserve respect. In fact reporting on rape stories when the man has been found not guilty only sends out the wrong message that women cry rape. It will turn the public against women. That is what the media is doing at the moment because they are placing more focus and reporting on cases where the woman has falsely accused a man of rape than cases where the woman has been raped. If only rape cases that were found to be true were reported in the media, it would send out a much more positive message. Rape cases like other sexual abuse cases should not be reported in the media until after the trial and when someone has been found guilty. Being accused of rape when you haven’t done is awful as there is such a stigma attached to it. Your life may never be the same again just like the woman’s life may never be the same again after she is raped. Personally I don’t like the trials by the media we have in this country. Reporting should be done after a trial for guilty cases. All human beings deserve the right to keep their privacy and reputation intact until found guilty. I agree that anonymity should not be given to just rape defendants but to all defendants. But by giving this anonymity to rape defendants it might just be a start to grant anonymity for other types of crime.

Jeff // Posted 22 May 2010 at 12:29 am

“And its not just celebrity trials: the idea of a rape accusation as a “weapon” against anyone (particularly someone in a profession that involves caring for the young and vulnerable, someone with kids etc) is very prevalent; i remember reading a magazine article about some guy’s ‘rape accusation hell’ only a few months back and i’ve read them before. If it really didnt happen, its definitely unfair on the men involved because a rape accusation that everyone knows about is clearly hard to shake – but its also unfair on other women with real accusations to make. And if it did happen, well, why give incidents where he got off anyway publicity and clout? ”

Actually that seems a pretty good point, a lot of the rubbish on MRA sites focuses on “She falsely accused X of rape to ruin his life” blah blah blah. Removing that possibility is a good thing.

“Remember 94% male rapists charged with rape are being acquitted and that does not take into account the numbers of men who each year commit rape against women and girls. ”

Not quite. 94% of males (not male rapists) charged with rape are being acquitted. Though it is almost certain that some of those males are indeed rapists, that does not give you the right to sweepingly condemn them all having been judged innocent.

george // Posted 22 May 2010 at 12:39 am

It’s because they don’t believe that rape ever happens. They think rape is some sinister stranger leaping out of the bushes and tackling a sober virgin to the ground. (Even that isn’t *really* rape most of the time, in their view — thinking of the young girl with learning disabilities who was gang raped, and the rapists filmed the rape, and it STILL wasn’t rape enough to get justice.)

They don’t believe that rape happens because it is just men exercising their right to sex, to female bodies, and women and girls that men rape are held to be responsible, for not stopping their rapist before things went too far.

No, what ‘rape’ means to these people is something women ‘cry’ when they want to revenge themselves upon a man for real or imagined wrongs, or because they feel embarrassed to have consented to sex.

I mean, that is essentially how men seem to conceptualise the whole issue of rape. And in that context, the proposal makes sense. If rape isn’t really a real crime that affects real human beings (i.e. men), then it must be a pernicious lie, and men need to be protected from it.

Also I think people believe that because 94% of rape cases don’t end in conviction, that all those unconvicted cases are false allegations. But of course that isn’t the case at all. Rape cases don’t end in conviction because the system is designed to protect men. Failing to get a conviction against a rapist is not the same as being a liar.

Shea // Posted 22 May 2010 at 11:23 am

I’m sorry I just saw this:

“This doesn’t need an accusation, although it may begin with one, but simply a body being found will do.”

Wrong actually, you don’t ever need to have found a body for a murder prosecution to go ahead. People have been convicted where no body was found. but the other evidence was strong enough.

“Rape is a quite special case of crime: one being that the victim actually needs to accuse her attacker in order for an investigation to begin.”

Wrong again. Statutory rape needs no accusation. Even adult rape where the victim is disabled or as in one recent case beaten into a coma, no “accusation” needed to ever have been made. There was sufficient physical evidence that the victim did not consent.

“So a rape investigation, and the subsequent destroying of the accused’s life, begins on the word of the supposed victim.”

This just drips with misogyny. Are you sure you’re on the right site? Subsequent destroying? I have never yet met a man I knew to be accused of rape, I’ve seen a couple of example of extreme cases where men have taken their own lives because of a rape accusation – its terrible. But usually they have other, mental health issues involved. The attention given to these cases & to those of “false accusations” by the media is wildly disproportionate. The vast majority simply pick themselves up and carry on. Buoyed up by a society that at heart always believes a woman is lying about rape.

“supposed victim” – no, actual victim. Even in the case where no prosecution results, we have no substantial proof that a woman wasn’t raped, just that it couldn’t be proven beyond all doubt.

And actually- what about the rape victims,the real innocents in all this, whose lives ar edestroyed? Who commit suicide when no prosecution results, or are accused of “making it all up”. Where’s the justice and the protection for them?

“The elephant in the room in terms of mental health at the moment is the staggering rate of young to middle-aged male suicides.”

I think you’ve come dangerously close to suggesting all men are rapists there. This actually has NOTHING AT ALL to do with allegations of rape. Why the hell are you bringing it up in this context?

“Anyone accused of rape will find it incredibly difficult finding work afterwards should they change jobs.”

This is total garbage. There is no recording of allegations on a CRB check, it is only for conviction or cautions. If a man was acquitted in a rape trial he will not have to declare anything to do with it, in subsequent job interviews/ applications.

“It is common practice for an employer to Google a candidate’s name, and if the first 10 hits on Google are the stories of how this man was involved in a rape case, it can lead to immediate alarm bells ringing.”

Unless the man has an unusual name, I don’t see how an employer could tell it was the same person. Even if they did the acquittal would speak volumes. In fact to discrimminate on the grounds the candidate has been accused of something in the past is likely to open them up to a claim for unlawful discrimination, under the rehabilitation of offenders act.

“You say the fact that naming and shaming those accused of rape has led to others coming forward in very much the minority of cases in worth paying the price of destroying someone’s life.”

So long as that person is male, right? Because if she’s female and a rape victim she can happily be written off as collateral damage. Tell the truth.

Clare Gould // Posted 22 May 2010 at 1:31 pm

Hear, hear Shea. Added to the fact that the distinguishing characteristics of rape as a crime are irrelevant when discussing anonymity.

I can think of no legal or social justification for this singling out of rape for special rules regarding anonymity. Unless we are saying that accused rapists are a special class of vulnerable person – along with children or young offenders?

Jack // Posted 22 May 2010 at 1:58 pm

Shea – in your response to my post, you bring up several either irrelevant or inaccurate points or use anecdotal evidence that doesn’t apply to the majority of cases of allegations of rape. I’d also prefer it if you didn’t demonise me as a misogynist, a liar, or someone who doesn’t understand the magnitude of what we’re talking about here, purely because you disagree with me.

You’re also wrong about the CRB checks, as someone who has worked in a personnel department, we’re aware that if someone has been reported to the police for a crime such as rape, that allegation is on their CR and 99% of the time, their application will go no further because of it.

And whilst you bring up a good point in relation to Google, bear in mind that the age, whereabouts and profession of the person being considered will usually be reported as well, narrowing it down quite a bit. Again, it does happen.

I’d also like to bring up how the naming of defendants has actually worsened the situation. When the right to anonymity for defendants was repealed in the 80s, two things happen: 1, the number of reported rapes increased and 2, the percentage of reports of rape resulting in a conviction decreased. This led to the 94% figure that keeps getting brought up. Now this 94% figure is doing more harm than good. We want women who have raped to feel the system works so that they can be confident in receiving justice if they decide to come forward. However, the 94% figure is making people lose confidence in the system. Are you more likely to report a rape if the proportion of those resulting in conviction was 50% instead of only 6%? This is the view held by prominent critics and experts in this area. Furthermore, of those that go to court, 56% of those do result in a conviction. Of most of those, naming the defendant (since now it has gone to court, this is when the defendant is actually named, therefore, naming the defendant or not is actually entirely irrelevant for the 94% figure) has had no significant effect on the trial. Of those where publicly naming the defendant has helped, they are in the extreme minority of cases.

The fact is naming the defendant, on the whole, has no discernible effect on helping to increase the conviction rate, and as mentioned before can actually be hindering attempts to convict rapists. What benefits that can be reaped from such action only apply in the minority of cases and the system is ripe for abuse. Many other Western countries with more successful conviction rates grant anonymity to defendants in rape cases. In a fundamentally free and fair society, people have the right to not have their lives destroyed by allegations they are found not guilty of.

Kate // Posted 22 May 2010 at 2:55 pm

I’m shocked and a bit saddened that this has caused as much debate as it has. I really didn’t think that I’d come to the F Word and be told I was cruel for sympathising with the thousands of women already failing to get justice, and not the poor menz.

Jonny Wright // Posted 22 May 2010 at 11:38 pm

Just a quick thought. One of the recurring comments on here has been that it’s unfair to give rape defendants special protection against the press, when we don’t do the same thing for defendants accused of other crimes.

I think that argument is dangerous, because logically, that means you shouldn’t give special treatment to rape *victims* either. (You could say, “why give rape victims special protection, when you don’t give it to people who have been burgled?”)

The point is, rape is such a horrendous crime of exploitation – it’s in a category of its own. In terms of the effect on the victim and their level of suffering, it’s completely different to, say, a burglary. That’s the justification for giving rape victims anonymity.

And once you’ve accepted that, it’s logically very hard to deny anonymity to defendants by saying “they should be treated like defendants in any other crime.”

Hannah // Posted 23 May 2010 at 12:18 am

Hmm I’m on the fence on this one. On the one hand I totally agree that the idea that this law encourages the belief that all rape survivors are lying. On the other hand following the twisted logic of those people who believe all the rape myths pedalled by the Daily Fail and the like I feel that this rule might actually help the credibility of the accuser as it eliminates the possibility that she is making a false accusation in order to get revenge on/destroy the accused.

I actually really like the idea of anonymity for all serious defendants before proven guilty. The tabloids have a huge influence on the public’s perception of criminal cases and it must be nearly impossible to find an impartial jury fro some high profile crimes nowadays.

monty // Posted 23 May 2010 at 12:20 am

Jennifer Drew said:

Remember 94% male rapists charged with rape are being acquitted and that does not take into account the numbers of men who each year commit rape against women and girls.

No, this is incorrect, it should read 42%.

Tom // Posted 23 May 2010 at 3:37 am

Sir Ian Blair, in 1985, estimated 50 to 70% of rape claims false. Since then, there has been a huge increase in rape reports, with only a slight increase in prosecutions, despite improvements in rape evidence like DNA, and broadening of definition of rape. It is not anti-feminist to say that there is an ignored epidemic of false allegation. Feminists should be distancing themselves from those professional victim-feminist lobbyists hell bent on denying false rape even exists.

Suraya // Posted 23 May 2010 at 4:22 am

Oh, in case anyone’s interested, Kate Copstick, owner of Erotic Review, expressed some, er, ‘interesting’ views on how rape victims and perpetrators ought to be treated, recently:

http://stage.eroticreviewmagazine.com/blogs/copstick/rape

(Warning, it may make you feel incredibly sick as it did me).

sianmarie // Posted 23 May 2010 at 11:05 am

thanks shea – you said what i wanted to say! agree with every word.

Jilly // Posted 23 May 2010 at 11:49 am

Jennifer Drew wrote: ”Remember 94% male rapists charged with rape are being acquitted and that does not take into account the numbers of men who each year commit rape against women and girls. ”

I think you’re getting mixed up with the fact that 94% of rape cases reported to the police do not result in charge/trial or conviction. 6% of all cases reported to the police result in conviction. I think it’s only about 20% of cases reported to the police result in a trial. The vast majority of rape cases do not result in a charge let alone a trial for many reasons. Some rapists are willing to plead guilty to the lesser charge of sexual assault which also skews the figures.

Jilly // Posted 23 May 2010 at 12:03 pm

Jack – any crime which is a physical assault on a human being would begin with that person’s accusation – rape is no different in that respect. As others have said if the victim is found unconscious and injured then the police will be involved before that person ever makes an accusation.

I always think it’s strange that people who believe accused rapists are dealt with unfairly never seem to complain about those accused of other crimes and acquitted being treated unfairly. Surely anyone accused and then acquitted of a crime may have difficulties when it comes to employment etc. though the public in general have notoriously short memories.

Trial by media: when a crime is committed it will be reported in the media – which often helps with getting witnesses to come forward. Once someone has been charged there can be no reporting of the case. When the trial starts the media can only report on what happened in court and they must not publish analysis or speculation about it – it has to be factual reporting. Once a verdict is reached then they can publish what they like. So I would have said we really don’t have trial by media.

polly // Posted 23 May 2010 at 12:25 pm

There is an argument that can be made that defendants in rape cases should have anonymity because alleged victims also have anonymity. In other cases witnesses don’t have anonymity, so there isn’t an exact parallel, though Josie makes an excellent point about how anyone’s reputation can be destroyed by a false allegation, not just defendants in rape cases. However those arguing for this change would point out that in that case witnesses giving evidence for the prosecution can be named.

I don’t see how this is going to improve the rape conviction rate though (the example of John Worboys is also highly relevant here). Maybe this is something that should be dealt with on a case by case basis – the prosecution could ask for the defendant to be identified if they think it is likely that there are other victims who would come forward as a result.

Thinking of celebrities whose career has been destroyed following rape allegations – well Mike Tyson’s career seems to have recovered, and he was convicted of rape. And Jack Tweed didn’t have much of a ‘career’ to begin with.

Kellie // Posted 23 May 2010 at 1:10 pm

I’m so fing mad about this I can barely unclench my teeth. why has this issue barely breached the news?

I agree with Clare above. the fact that no-one would dream of extending the anonymity granted to child victims of sex crimes to accused paedophiles makes it completely clear what the objective of this law is: the institutionalise the discrediting of those who say they have been raped.

Sheila // Posted 23 May 2010 at 3:11 pm

It also ought to be noted that many men are arrested and charged with rape without it ever being reported to the press, and in order to arrest and charge there has to have been some prima facie evidence. Should we demand anonymity for women who are accused of falsely claiming rape too?

Jess McCabe // Posted 23 May 2010 at 7:43 pm

I am not going to get into a tit-for-tat about statistics on false rape allegations. However, abyss2hope has a two part series which looks at the difficulties with some of the statistics which get thrown around about this. Part 1, Part 2. Please read these before proceeding with a comment going on about ‘false rape claims’.

What is clear is that the vast, vast majority of rapes are not reported to the police. And when it comes to those that are reported, rape victims still may face being disbelieved and dismissed, despite efforts by the police to improve themselves.

Rape victims face a postcode lottery – in Scotland, for example, where the rape conviction rate is even lower than England and Wales, a study a few years ago found that the rape conviction rate was 19% in Dumfries and Galloway, but 1.7% in Tayside.

Senior police officers admit that police officers do not take victims seriously.

In the no doubt extreme case of Worboys the police could have stopped him much earlier, if only they had taken earlier rape reports more seriously.

Anyone who thinks that in this situation the crisis is the number of false rape allegations, or that the priority should be to give defendants in rape trials protections that are otherwise only reserved for victims and minors, it seems very much like looking at rape and sexual violence through the wrong end of the telescope.

We have protections for innocent people wrongly accused: the criminal justice system is not foolproof, of course, but the protection for innocent people is having a trial by jury, the right to numerous appeals processes, and so on.

Jeff // Posted 23 May 2010 at 7:52 pm

“We have protections for innocent people wrongly accused: the criminal justice system is not foolproof, of course, but the protection for innocent people is having a trial by jury, the right to numerous appeals processes, and so on. ”

The problem is that, in many cases (including a large number of those covered in F Word blog posts) people are dismissing the verdict that the Jury gave, and insisting that the defendent is guilty (and referring to him as a rapist, despite the acquittal) based on the limited evidence that they heard was presented during the trial.

Want a perfect example? Here;

“‘Remember 94% male rapists charged with rape are being acquitted and that does not take into account the numbers of men who each year commit rape against women and girls.”

Despite the acquittal, you’re still calling them rapists.

Jeff // Posted 23 May 2010 at 7:53 pm

Whoops, missed this;

“Should we demand anonymity for women who are accused of falsely claiming rape too?”

Yes! Trial by Media is one of the more unfortunate effects of a free press. I’d support anonymity for all defendants, until proven guilty.

Jess McCabe // Posted 23 May 2010 at 8:27 pm

@Jeff Once a not guilty verdict is reached, anyone claiming that person was a rapist already faces the threat of a libel lawsuit.

I am fairly sure that was a misquote of the statistic on Jennifer Drew’s part, as repeatedly noted in this thread, so I’m not sure what your point is. The 94% figure does not relate to acquittals where someone has been tried and found not guilty.

The surest way to allay people’s doubts about the effectiveness of the system is to change it so that people have more confidence that justice is served more of the time for rape victims.

coldharbour // Posted 23 May 2010 at 10:26 pm

“Trial by media: when a crime is committed it will be reported in the media – which often helps with getting witnesses to come forward. Once someone has been charged there can be no reporting of the case. When the trial starts the media can only report on what happened in court and they must not publish analysis or speculation about it – it has to be factual reporting. Once a verdict is reached then they can publish what they like. So I would have said we really don’t have trial by media.”

There are pretty obvious ways for certain sections of the media to circumvent that, the tabloids for example are world class masters in visual propaganda. Heading reading: “****** IN CHILD SEX CHARGE” with a Brasseye esque photo of the defendant looking disheveled and particularly shady is the stock method (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it). Now, the print doesn’t specifically say the person in question is guilty, all they have to do is employ base-level over-emotional language in conjunction with loosely veiled comments regarding the person in questions character. I used to work in an environment where the tabloids were the window to the world for a lot of people, for some they were even the gospel truth. I’m old enough to remember the Sus Law incidentally (which ultimately let to the Brixton Riots) where I knew a lot of innocent (read Black) people went to jail. I still couldn’t trust the (still racist no matter what anyone tells you) Police or the (still racist no matter what anyone tells you) Courts as far as I could throw them. The law is and always will be leveled against the Poor and the Non-White.

Shea // Posted 24 May 2010 at 12:03 am

@ Jack – none of my points were inaccurate, irrelevant or anecdotal. I didn’t call you a misogynist and a liar- I pointed out what you had wrote was false and misogynistic. Instead of throwing your toys out of the pram in a hissy fit (its all about ME! ME! ME!) why don’t you check your privilege and realise there are larger issues at hand?!?!

A standard CRB check DOES NOT reveal allegations made, ONLY cautions or convictions. An allegation may show on an enhanced CRB check if the Chief Constable believes there is sufficient merit to include it. If that isn’t the case the person affected can write to the Chief Constable to ask for it to be removed, the same way they can for allegations of domestic violence and child molesting.

Frankly if the Chief Constable refuses to have an unproven allegation of rape removed from someone’s enhanced CRB- there are usually damn good reasons (i.e the evidence in the case was very strong).

If you are refusing to include someone’s application for employment, unless they are working with vulnerable children or adults, because of an allegation, you would be liable for a claim for discrimination under the rehabilitation of offenders act and potentially for breaching the claimant’s human rights (if you work for a public authority). The decision of the Chief Constable would also be challengeable under the Human Rights Act 1998.

“When the right to anonymity for defendants was repealed in the 80s, two things happen: 1, the number of reported rapes increased and 2, the percentage of reports of rape resulting in a conviction decreased.”

This isn’t true. Your right in that the percentage of reported rapes has increased since the 80s but the number of convictions has dropped, but this is not a result of the anonymity of the defendant being dropped.

Quite simply it is to do with the introduction of DNA evidence. Prior to this, defendants would simply claim that sex had never happened. Unless there was eyewitness evidence or sufficiently strong other evidence to prove otherwise there was no way of overcoming this substantial evidential hurdle. With the introduction of DNA evidence- it was was easy to prove that sex had happened, so defendants changed tactic- now they claim it could not have been rape because the victim consented. So a new evidential hurdle has been created – how to tell when it is the word of one person against another?

This is the primary reason, coupled with the standard of proof required (beyond all reasonable doubt) why rape convictions have fallen.

It has nothing to do with ” those professional victim-feminist lobbyists hell bent on denying false rape even exists.” (@ Tom).

The anonymity for defendants is disastrous for this very reason- the more victims who come forward, the stronger the prosecution case becomes. It is already the case that where a defendant has previously pleaded “not guilty” using the defence of consent this can be admitted to the court as evidence against him.

The real problem here is not the anonymity of the defendant or not, (after all even if the defendant was granted anonymity, there friends and family would undoubtedly find out) it is that a rape allegations has been made in the first place. To be perfectly, bluntly honest, if they want to avoid allegations of rape perhaps men should be more careful about their behaviour in the first place and society should be hammering the home the message – that yes means yes and no means no. Because we hear time and time again about women’s responsiblity to prevent rape by not drinking, wearing revealing clothing, breathing etc that perhaps its only just and fair that men also shoulder the burden of modifying and being careful about their own behaviour in light of the “devastating” consequences that can occur.

amx // Posted 24 May 2010 at 10:53 am

Rape reporting as it currently stands does serve a purpose and I think its faults can be resolved by measures other than this. Looking at recent high profile cases where the men were not convicted of rape the woman was never accused (legally, in court) of making a malicious accusation; these were not cases of a woman making a false claim, rather that the evidence couldn’t support a conviction. What the reporting did do well was to bring to light the behaviour of those men, perhaps providing a warning to other women in the future. The threat of their ‘life being ruined’ may deter some rapists, if the only cases published in the press are those that result in a conviction then more than ever rapists will know that they can rape with virtual impunity.

The “ruining of men’s lives” issue is to me a none issue – if a man is accused in the press and then found not guilty the press need to be held to account by being legally required to publish acknowledgement of the mans innocence. I do think the law needs to change in that respect; the ‘found innocent’ story should be given equal placement in the newspaper as the accusation – a front page accusation should lead to a front page retraction, etc.

As in the Tweed case the press should also be held to the facts when reporting non-convictions; the woman was not charged with making a false statement therefore it is libellous for the press to claim that she did.

I’m more and more disappointed with the Lib-Dems by the second, this is a policy that I knew nothing about before the election. This policy addresses only the protection of the few men each year who are the victims of malicious accusations, we have to remember that it is only a few men who suffer this, these few cases can be dealt with easily by the press. Thousands of women are raped every year and their attackers are not convicted yet all of those woman are not convicted of making false accusation and reporting needs to reflect that. Naming the accused prior to trial is too vital a tool to lose.

Apologies for the slightly disjointed post, I’m working and blogging simultaneously (kinda impressing myself a bit )

Sheila // Posted 24 May 2010 at 1:17 pm

So what about the risk of a libel law suit! I stand by my accusation that my ex husband raped me. Libel is proved on a balance of probabilities scale – the civil level of proof required. If rape were proved on a balance of probabilities scale some men who’ve been acquitted wouldn’t have been. FOr an acquittal for rape, there should be proof that it didn’t take place, for the grey area in between the verdict should be “not proven”. And besides many rape cases don’t get as far as trial. All those women are entitled to say who raped them. We should have a wesbite called “Balance of probabilities” detailing rape cases and let the public decide.

Cycleboy // Posted 24 May 2010 at 1:32 pm

The C4 programme on Sunday 24 May about South Africa’s Lost Girls graphically highlighted the continuing suffering of girls (in this case, very young) who see their attackers every day. “Something must be done!” is the obvious, heartfelt response.

However, most of the rapists are minors and, here in the UK, we are trying not to imprison minors if we can avoid it. Of course, for something as heinous as rape, society must be protected. The problem is, getting the proof. We would be on very shakey legal ground if we allowed rapists to be convicted on less evidence than other crimes.

I just don’t know what the answer is. Certainly, the police must be more approachable, make fewer mistakes etc, but how else can we ensure rapists are convicted?

emmariot // Posted 24 May 2010 at 7:05 pm

I just saw this on the news:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8692223.stm

It just shows you how male children are trained to rape by society.

Aver // Posted 25 May 2010 at 3:19 am

Rape is an ugly crime. but it is just that, a crime.

Our court of laws protects all people involved in a crime untill a verdict is reached.

Simple as that people.

Troon // Posted 25 May 2010 at 1:00 pm

Surely being named is damaging only because the system is so unfit for purpose, because a non-guilty verdict is not seen, including by most men, as any indication of non-guilt? The only present way of definitively ‘clearing your name’ is for the defendant to sue those ‘falsely’ accusing them of libel. I don’t know if this is possible, but assume it’s never done because the burden would lie with them to prove rape didn’t occur?

Surely it is the weddedness of a system to an adversarial system with a ludicrous burden of proof that is the essential obstacle to effectively prosecuting rape cases. It’s not as if that standard is inviolable-coroner’s inquests can make substantive rulings on the balance of probabilities on a death, whilst a criminal trial decides on the responsibility of the accused. Why not have a similar split for rape cases, protecting defendants by making the system trustworthy, not by hiding them?

Jess McCabe // Posted 26 May 2010 at 12:47 am

@Troon On a couple of occasions people have been charged (in a criminal trial) with malicious rape allegatios, such as this worrying case earlier in the year.

I’ve not heard about libel laws being used in cases which go to trial, I think it would be hard or impossible because effectively only trial proceedings and the verdict can be reported, and media reporting of trials is protected by absolute privilege. It would be hard to persuade anyone to give evidence for the prosecution as a witness at a trial, if a not-guilty verdict would immediately result in you being sued for defamation.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 26 May 2010 at 2:38 am

Troon: A non-guilty verdict is not a reliable indication of non-guilt because there are so many ways that the rapist can go free.

For example: The jury will say ‘oh she’s a slut/ was drinking/ was involved with him,’ the judge can be swayed by the testimonies of the rapist’s loving relatives, and society will be swayed by their perceptions and the rapist’s money and prestige or lack of these things. Then he walks, and the victim is left with the bill, the ongoing trauma, and the knowledge that the legal system can never ever be trusted.

My personal version of justice would be to give the rapist’s name and location to the victim, give her (or in the rare case him) a gun, and tell them that it’s up to them. We’d have a lot less rape after a few years of that, I think.

Jeff // Posted 26 May 2010 at 8:53 am

“The “ruining of men’s lives” issue is to me a none issue – if a man is accused in the press and then found not guilty the press need to be held to account by being legally required to publish acknowledgement of the mans innocence. I do think the law needs to change in that respect; the ‘found innocent’ story should be given equal placement in the newspaper as the accusation – a front page accusation should lead to a front page retraction, etc.”

Whilst I see the logic behind this idea, I’d be very concerned that rather than “Man was Innocent” the tabloids will go with “Evil woman lied about rape”. Because the latter will sell, and the former won’t.

“FOr an acquittal for rape, there should be proof that it didn’t take place, for the grey area in between the verdict should be “not proven”. And besides many rape cases don’t get as far as trial.”

That, to me, comes dangerously close to breaking the “Innocent until proven guilty” rule.

Sheila // Posted 26 May 2010 at 10:14 am

Troon

Yes, that’s my point too. I would like to see civil law balance of probabilities tests applied to rape cases rather than beyond reasonable doubt criminal level proof. If it’s one person’s word against another it is very hard to convict on the basis of beyond reasonable doubt, but balance of probabilities would be much easier. It may be that this wouldn’t result in criminal conviction, but in some sort of recognition of liability – thus leading to compensation and at least some sort of closure for the victim who doesn’t feel that the world are saying she was lying just because what she says can’t be proved beyond reasonable doubt. I’d love it if the person who raped me sued me for libel. They have the burden of proof and they run the risk of being suspected of a criminal act but in a civil law context. That’s why men don’t bring these actions.

Jess McCabe // Posted 26 May 2010 at 10:42 am

@Sheila – Unfortunately under libel law it is ‘guilty until proven innocent’. That is one of the many issues with English libel law, see here for more.

Sheila // Posted 26 May 2010 at 1:22 pm

Jess, political rhetoric. Not a proper summary of English law of libel. Am a 20 year qualified lawyer.

Anna // Posted 26 May 2010 at 1:23 pm

Politicalguineapig, so what? Because I’m a pacifist I’m not ‘raped enough’ or traumatised enough or whatever to get justice? Fuck that. The system we have now is shitty, but it’s better than some pseudovigilante hell.

Jeff // Posted 26 May 2010 at 1:45 pm

“My personal version of justice would be to give the rapist’s name and location to the victim, give her (or in the rare case him) a gun, and tell them that it’s up to them. We’d have a lot less rape after a few years of that, I think.”

An ideal that would certainly necessitate anonymity for rape defendants if this was the likely outcome of a trial that returned a non-guilty verdict.

EmilyBites // Posted 26 May 2010 at 3:42 pm

@Politicalguineapig – the more hateful, evil rape apology I see from men and women on every single thread discussing this proposed change the more I want to agree. Eventually we will stop arguing with them, and I know exactly what I’ll do if any man ever tries to rape me again.

The law as it stands is failing rape survivors. You can barely get a conviction, and THAT is what must change, not special consideration for the defendant that those accused of other serious crimes don’t receive. To act as though the damage to innocent men’s reputations is the biggest problem of our legal system as regards rape is obscene and so male-centric I can hardly believe people are defending it.

There are so, so many changes that could be made to UK rape laws to make them fairer and more effective. What about requiring the defendant to prove that they sought *and received* explicit and enthusiastic mutual consent. That immediately does away with all those acquittals in which defendants claim that a woman ‘didn’t say no.’ I didn’t say the magic word, but then I was 15 and passing-out drunk, and the family friend who raped me claimed it was consensual sex. The police explicitly told me I would never get a conviction. Wouldn’t it be nice if cases like that were a slam dunk for justice?!

Shea and Jess, you are both doing a wonderful job in an awful thread.

Lauren // Posted 26 May 2010 at 10:08 pm

I agree with political guinea pig – women need violence to make a stand. Don’t you guys dare attack me for saying that – the legal system will not protect us.

Men rape because 1) they can get away with it as an act of violence just seen as sex; 2) because they don’t expect women to break their necks….

Womens self defence classes are awesome- teaches women how to do some serious damage to men. I suggest going, my self confidence went through the roof once I’d learnt how to kill someone twice my size with bare hands.

With rape getting easier and easier, hatred toward women getting more bitter by the day – we need attack as the defence.

Lauren // Posted 26 May 2010 at 10:22 pm

Womens self defence groups are amazing. All our lives women are led to believe they have no chance against a man – before those few classes I thought I had to be thankful men weren’t raping me every day, because they physically easily could. After I was taught in 3 classes how to knock a boxer out with killing techniques, I saw my body as a killing weapon of it needed to be. The value in that was amazing.

It also makes me so sad to think most women are unaware of the damage they could do if attacked. The patriarchy instills in them from day dot – you have no hope against attack or men.

Not true. Our bodies can be great weapons- don’t punch, slam with your lower palm with every bit of your body weight – right into his nose.

Troon // Posted 27 May 2010 at 10:36 am

@many

Sorry, what I meant to say was that if a woman accused is of falsely creating rape claims, and sued because that damaged her reputation, the onus would lie on the rapist to prove rape didn’t occur? And this would clear his (or sometimes her) name, but would be nigh on impossible.

As for ‘innocent until proven guilty’ it’s a legal principle not an absolute rule in life. Many lawyers are concerned it doesn’t work in cases where the jury are being asked to rule if a crime were committed, not how or under what circumstances (fraud is the other obvious case). Protections, including jury input, can remain even if different balances are accepted, as occurs in inquests across the country, which are often accepted for civil claims.

A J // Posted 27 May 2010 at 4:55 pm

@ Troon

A victim can already sue directly for rape if they wanted, as far as I’m aware (in the same way that they can sue for any assault). The problem is, as with all civil claims, it’s expensive and difficult, and a lot of work. The same goes for suing a person for false claims of rape or sexual assault. That’s why civil actions of that sort aren’t generally a realistic option for most people.

You’re right that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ isn’t an absolute rule in life. But then it doesn’t claim to be. It is, however, the fundamental basis of all criminal punishment. Juries are not asked to decide whether a crime has taken place – that’s not the purpose of a criminal trial – they’re asked to decide whether the prosecution has proven that the accused is guilty of the crime. A lower standard of proof is never going realistically to be applied for criminal offences – it’s highly doubtful any change would be legal in any case.

On the matter of anonymity for those accused of rape and sexual offences, there are decent arguments on both sides. But the truth is this: it is simply not a factor of any relevance to the great majority of rape cases. Naming the accused does not usually provide any benefit whatsoever to the prosecution, or to the prospects of conviction. And the inevitable, though rare, incidences of real and genuine injustice that occur where people have genuinely been maliciously accused, do significant damage to public attitudes towards rape, which in turn probably *damages* the prospects of conviction in many cases. Ultimately, maintaining anonymity for rape victims (which *is* important) should be far more of a priority that preventing the re-application of anonymity for those accused of rape until conviction. It would be a disaster if massive effort was wasted fighting this, rather than fighting for the real changes in attitudes towards sexual violence, and in the treatment of victims of sexual assault that are so badly needed, and which could actually make a positive difference to so many lives.

Jeff // Posted 27 May 2010 at 7:46 pm

I think being ‘innocent till proven guilty’ is a little more than a legal principle. It’s supposed to be a Human Right;

“Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

Article 11, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Politicalguineapig // Posted 27 May 2010 at 8:05 pm

Anna: I did not mean to insult anyone. But for me, if the choice is between making my own justice or getting no justice at all, I’ll be happy to take on the burden of taking someone’s life. It’s incredibly shitty that that is the only choice many women get, but that won’t be changing for a while.

Beatrice // Posted 27 May 2010 at 10:08 pm

Extending anonymity to rape defendants will only exacerbate a dangerous and already prevalent culture of relieving blame from rapists, and will create the impression that it is the victim instead who is subject to doubt. It will also prevent the coming forward of others with evidence, as naming the accused has proved useful in gathering evidence in many cases. Anonymity for rape defendants will fallaciously legitimise the myth that there is a high instance of false rape accusations. Anonymity should be used, as everywhere else within the law, to protect the victim, not people’s reputations. There is no reason for those accused of rape to have the protections afforded to the victim of the crime, as no where else anonymity given to defendants. Those accused of murder are not given protection for their reputation, what could be the justification for the preservation of reputation of those accused of rape other than a prejudiced one regarding the legitimacy of women’s claims to have been raped? There are no more false allegations of rape than there are of any other crime. We need to work towards a society where women are no longer blamed for being raped. This legislation would, as well as to drastically hinder the prosecution of rape cases, would give the impression that it is the rapists who need protection and that men’s reputations are more important than women’s safety.

Sheila // Posted 28 May 2010 at 9:00 am

My point is not to pursue rapists in civil actions, but since we acknowledge difficulties of a rapist in pursuing a libel claim, know that the likelihood of a rapist suing someone who calls them a rapist successfully for libel is a slim possibility, especially if the rape took place. Therefore, target men who’ve raped. Have big signs up near their houses with words for motorists like “Honk if you don’t like rapists”, and an arrow towards their door. T-shirts with their faces on and the word rapist. A person doesn’t have to be a convicted rapist to be called a rapist. Use the civil law where the criminal law fails.

sianmarie // Posted 28 May 2010 at 9:55 am

AJ:

It would be a disaster if massive effort was wasted fighting this, rather than fighting for the real changes in attitudes towards sexual violence, and in the treatment of victims of sexual assault that are so badly needed, and which could actually make a positive difference to so many lives.

well said. this is exactly where the effort needs to be – helping victims not perpetrators.

perhaps if men* stopped raping in the first place – you know, stopped thinking they could get away with it and stopped seeing women as objects who they can own, then we could seriously think about anonymity. but i want the govt to start tackling stopping rape, not protecting defendants. rape is far more common than false accusations after all. rape is the bigger issue here.

*not all men obviously. just in case anyone reads it that way!

sianmarie // Posted 28 May 2010 at 12:40 pm

apparently the govt are taking into consideration any comments on this issue. i’ve posted the letter i’ve sent, and email address, on my blog if you want to send a comment to those in charge.

http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com/2010/05/anonymity-for-rape-defendants.html

coldharbour // Posted 28 May 2010 at 2:39 pm

@Politicalguineapig

Would you extent your philosophy to murdering children as well? It’s good to see the F Word endorsing the political philosophy of the death penalty without trial, another victory for human rights.

Jess McCabe // Posted 28 May 2010 at 3:31 pm

@coldharbour If all it takes for The F-Word to have “endorsed” an opinion is that moderators have approved a comment expressing it, then clearly The F-Word also “endorses” your comment just as much as @politicalguineapig’s.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 28 May 2010 at 3:45 pm

Coldharbour: Where did I say that? I don’t support killing children, I just think that where a crime has been comitted, punishment should be meted out. And since the justice system is stacked against the victim in rape cases, women need to think of alternative ways of getting justice.

Sheila: That’s quite an elegant solution. I wonder if it would be effective.

angercanbepower // Posted 28 May 2010 at 5:04 pm

Jess, these comments from politicalguineapig make me feel very uncomfortable. I don’t understand why you keep publishing them. Your rules talk about how this is a safe space where anything deemed offensive won’t be published. Yet advocating violence is ok?

Look, I’m an angry person. I hate the patriarchal society we live in, and shudder every day at the comments, attitudes and actions of friends, colleagues, strangers, newspapers, everyone. And I do think we need to DO SOMETHING – every bone in my body screams out with constant frustration that we can’t do more, that not only am I not preventing oppression, but that most people in society don’t even know the harm that they’re doing and that even if I expended every bit of energy that I have, there’s basically nothing that I can do about that.

To some extent, I know that my discomfort is naive. The obvious corollary to my objection is: well, what are you gonna do? And when it comes to stopping rape, obviously I don’t know. Violence is sometimes the only way to achieve an end. But vigilante justice? Really?

Kristel // Posted 28 May 2010 at 5:16 pm

Coldharbour, are you referring to the case where the two underage boys were convicted of raping an 8-year old girl?

I sent a comment in response to The Times article about that case (which said they should not have been tried) saying children learn by example and they aren’t exactly growing up in the kind of society which demonstrates a lot of respect for women. Also that they can go into any newsagent and see scantily clad women displayed as objects. It wasn’t published!

Jess McCabe // Posted 28 May 2010 at 5:18 pm

@angercanbepower It’s a balancing act. It seems to me that @politicalguineapig is speaking from a place of anger and frustration that our society is so bad at preventing rape or delivering any sort of justice to victims of sexual violence. Not a literal call to go out and round up rapists.

I’ve not been publishing other comments to this thread (left by some other commenters) which are more direct calls for violence, it’s a judgement call and on the one hand I don’t want to publish comments that advocate vigilante violence, but on the flip side I’m reluctant to not let comments through moderation which are expressions of understandable rage.

For the record, I obviously do not think violent reprisals are the solution.

Cara // Posted 28 May 2010 at 6:40 pm

Wholeheartedly agree with Lauren – self-defence is the answer.

I did a short course in it, and plan to do more some time.

It really helps you feel less powerless and is a way to vent anger. Rather than vigilante mobs, tempting as they are – what if all women knew how to defend themselves?

It’s no magic solution, but far fewer men would rape if they knew they would probably get hurt.

It should be taught in schools.

Also, it reminds you there are some good guys out there – who actively do not want you to get attacked.

Lauren // Posted 28 May 2010 at 7:07 pm

Isn’t it obvious politicalguineapig is expressing legitimate anger?

If she can’t express that on a feminist site, then heaven help her – bottled up intense anger at the patriarchy is not good – in fact it’s causing depression on a collosal scale in women, across the globe.

I think it’s bad that places like the Mail comment section allow suggestions of violence all the time: ‘filthy pig needs to be stoned to death!’, but the f word is assumed to have these magical myriad of responsibilities.

We need an outlet for that anger. The victim is laughed at in rape cases.. so if one was to go out to seek revenge (and this is my damn opinion not the friggen royal society of feminists!!!) then I would probably shake her hand and give a big wink.

polly // Posted 28 May 2010 at 7:46 pm

Re: “false allegations”. In rape cases there is usually very little question that an act of intercourse took place – typically the defence position will be that the alleged victim consented. Moreover a lot of ‘acquaintance rape’ allegations, are made by someone the alleged rapist has just met – e.g. the Jack Tweed case, where Tweed had just met the alleged victim in a nightclub.

Women are told all the time that they should ‘avoid’ rape by being careful about where they go, how much they drink, what clothing they wear etc etc etc. Maybe it’s about time we started telling men to be careful who they have sex with if they don’t want to be accused of rape! After all if you wait to get to know someone before having sex, and finding out if they are the kind of person who is likely to make a false allegation, it’s a lot less likely to happen to you, isn’t it? Why should only women have to be cautious?

(cue chorus of outraged MRAs – and yes I am being somewhat ironic in case there’s any doubt)

Jeff: how do you explain the fact that Scottish law has a ‘not proven’ verdict?

Lauren // Posted 28 May 2010 at 8:07 pm

Thanks Cara,

‘It’s no magic solution, but far fewer men would rape if they knew…

It should be taught in schools.’

that’s the first thing I thought after the first class – ‘why is this not being taught to every woman, everywhere right now?’

It’s not like karate classes, I had been to a tae kwon do class before and felt it was more akin to dance routines!

Our self defence class was taught by a stocky man and junior (a very attractive man always beaming). We got given pads to practice on – as it was an all girls class, everyone let themselves go. You could hear the impact on the pads as well, when he taught us how to stand and how to use aggressive energy to throw all body weight into it.

It’s sad that femininity as a discipline teaches us to be defenceless. Cutesyness, trying to be sloppy, doing our hair and throwing pathetic punches – soon dropped as we were told we had to make harder impact noises.

I agree it’s amazing to see men that don’t want women to get hurt, or taunted and bullied for being women – it’s sometimes a bit emotional to see. I find it strange how they’re the more manly, attractive ones of the bunch too. Sexists and rape apologists are always insecure, (slightly boring or ‘nothing special about them’.. think Frankie Boyle).

Jeff // Posted 28 May 2010 at 8:32 pm

“My point is not to pursue rapists in civil actions, but since we acknowledge difficulties of a rapist in pursuing a libel claim, know that the likelihood of a rapist suing someone who calls them a rapist successfully for libel is a slim possibility, especially if the rape took place. Therefore, target men who’ve raped. Have big signs up near their houses with words for motorists like “Honk if you don’t like rapists”, and an arrow towards their door. T-shirts with their faces on and the word rapist. A person doesn’t have to be a convicted rapist to be called a rapist. Use the civil law where the criminal law fails.”

I don’t think this is realistic actually, I’m pretty sure whoever you’re accusing would sue you and point to their acquittal as proof that they’re not a rapist.

DE // Posted 28 May 2010 at 10:42 pm

@sheila…As a lawyer you need make sure you don’t advise others to fall foul of s.5 and possibly s4 public order act 1986 (and the incitement of it.)

EmilyBites // Posted 29 May 2010 at 12:01 am

In addition to others defending politicalguineapig, I’d like to point out that ‘vigilante justice’ is not what zie first advocated, but using violent defence at the time of the rapist’s attack.

If I were faced with a(nother) rapist attempting to rape me (and no, I am not psychic nor can I see the future, but these things don’t happen in the blink of an eye and I’d include serious sexual assault) I would use all means possible to prevent them.

@Lauren: you’re absolutely right about venting our anger. Feminists are expected to keep their cool when discussing rape in a country where they may have been raped, may have known loved ones to be raped, may have been failed, ignored and humiliated by the justice system, and tormented by the public discourse on rape!

sianmarie // Posted 29 May 2010 at 9:26 am

there’s a petition here where you can protest against the proposal

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/drop-the-proposed-extension-of-anonymity-to-rape-defendants.html

Kristin // Posted 29 May 2010 at 6:05 pm

“Sexists and rape apologists are always insecure (slightly boring or nothing special about them…think Frankie Boyle)”.

This is SO true! It has always always been my experience. Anyone with sexist views usually has a terrifyingly fragile sense of identity. Stands to reason.

‘Real’ men aren’t sexist and ‘real’ men don’t rape. I have always thought that. They might think they’re real men, but they’re not.

EmilyBites // Posted 29 May 2010 at 7:28 pm

One interesting thing to note is that there isn’t even an equivalent to the phrase ‘cry rape’ and the phrase ‘false allegations’ has come to almost exclusively denote rape.

The phrase ‘rape accusation’ is also problematic, because once again we shift the focus to the female victim, and away from the perpetrator. The victim is suddenly seen as the one doing something to the ‘accused’.

coldharbour // Posted 29 May 2010 at 9:13 pm

“Have big signs up near their houses with words for motorists like “Honk if you don’t like rapists”, and an arrow towards their door.”

With the amount of guilty rapists going free this could lead to huge new industrial sector specifically for producing the signs. Maybe Iain Duncan Smith’s new proposals for forcing people to work for their JSA could be in alignment with this.

CMK // Posted 30 May 2010 at 11:24 am

This is a question of balance to me. Are the benefits of knowing who has been accused of rape greater than the costs of doing so both to the individual accused and to society?

I haven’t seen much evidence that ‘advertising’ the identity of someone that has been accused of rape makes much of a difference – I have heard lots of people say it does but this appears to be more anecdotal rather than based on studies.

The costs are pretty clear in terms of damage to the individual who has been accused, mud sticks even with acquittal. There have been lives ruined by unfounded accusations, equally there have been lives ruined by failed convictions (including those that were never prosecuted).

Personally I think all allegations of any crime should be private until the trial begins for many reasons. Where there is a good reason to publicise someone prior to trial then that should be an option, but it should not be an automatic step.

Cases such as Harold Shipman/John Leslie do benefit from publicity, but I’m not sure that Craig Charles would agree.

RE Self-Defence – as a fall back position this is prudent but it shouldn’t be required in the first place. I’d also urge caution that not being in such a situation in the first place is a far better defence than SD, especially given the speed at which things can happen and the initial shock which can render SD of limited value. Useful to have but don’t depend on it exclusively in my view.

Sheila // Posted 31 May 2010 at 9:34 am

Jeff, my rapist wasn’t acquitted as CPS dropped the case. An acquittal doesn’t mean I lied. It means it couldn’t be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

DE, sure I’m aware of public order offences. The honk if you don’t like rapists sign is tongue in cheek, sorry if you took it literally. What I’m saying is that current criminal justice is inadequate. If you call someone a rapist and they can’t prove to balance of probabilities that you aren’t telling the truth, let the mud stick.

Jeff // Posted 31 May 2010 at 4:17 pm

“Jeff: how do you explain the fact that Scottish law has a ‘not proven’ verdict? ”

Presumably their government voted it in? I did say “supposed to be” a Human Right. Unfortunatly, that rarely translates into reality.

Just curious, to everybody advocating vigilantism/naming and shaming accused rapists; how are you planning on distinguishing those whom really were innocent, and got acquitted justly.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 1 June 2010 at 6:10 am

With DNA testing there’s less and less chance of being ‘justly aquitted.’

anon // Posted 1 June 2010 at 1:24 pm

@CMK “I’d also urge caution that not being in such a situation in the first place is a far better defence than SD”

If only i’d thought of that before i was raped! duh! Of course I should have avoided my best friends house like the plague, and just stayed locked in my flat… but, woops, my flat does not have a magical rapist detering force field. How do i get myself into these situations!!!!

@Jeff “how are you planning on distinguishing those whom really were innocent, and got acquitted justly” – If the person that accused them of rape has been tried and convicted of making a malicious/false allegation.

Really the entire burden of rape currently rests on women – is this fair? No. Even if it doesn’t sit well with some people spreading some of blame and fallout from rape on to the other half of the population may not be entirely fair, but i for one am happy to live with that whilst we work out something that is fair.

Kristin // Posted 1 June 2010 at 3:24 pm

“I’d also urge caution that not being in such a situation in the first place is a far better defence than SD”.

This is the most clueless victim-blaming remark, given the myriad situations in which rape happens. Do you seriously think, CMK, that most girls and women aren’t already super-conscious every single day of their lives of which ‘situations’ they should try and avoid? Like:

– don’t go out

– don’t stay in (many rapes happen in the victim’s home)

– don’t trust any man you know, even if you think you know him well

– don’t go on public transport

– don’t get into a car with a man

– don’t have a social life, because a male friend might rape you

– don’t have a job, because a male colleague might rape you.

– don’t walk dark streets or alleys because of stranger rape

– don’t be alone with any man you know because of acquaintance rape

– don’t have a disability, because that will make you even more vulnerable

– don’t be a child or old (the age range of rape victims is from about 6 months to 80-something years) because that also makes you more vulnerable

I could go on. How many times does it have to be said – the onus is on rapists not to rape!

Please try and think before coming out with this kind of stupid, clueless, offensive crap.

Jeff // Posted 1 June 2010 at 3:30 pm

anon,

“Really the entire burden of rape currently rests on women – is this fair? No. Even if it doesn’t sit well with some people spreading some of blame and fallout from rape on to the other half of the population may not be entirely fair, but i for one am happy to live with that whilst we work out something that is fair.”

So, that means you aren’t interested in distinguishing between those who really are innocent, and those whom are guilty but got off, does it?

Elmo // Posted 1 June 2010 at 4:07 pm

Well said Kristin

polly // Posted 1 June 2010 at 8:05 pm

Jeff, it is possible to for civil cases to be pursued for rape when a criminal prosecution has failed. The standard of proof is different (balance of probabilities vs reasonable doubt)

Criminal juries don’t get to hear about a defendant’s previous convictions and general character normally but a libel trial could see this evidence. So acquittal in a criminal trial would not be proof that someone had been libelled, it would depend on all the other surrounding facts. The judge/jury may decide the accusation of rape is true in a libel case when there isn’t sufficient evidence in a criminal case.

A not guilty verdict in a criminal trial only shows that a jury didn’t think there was enough evidence to convict someone of a crime beyond reasonable doubt. It doesn’t prove they’re innocent. This was recognised when the law on ‘double jeopardy’ was changed. It is now possible for someone to be tried twice for the same offence if new evidence emerges which points to their guilt. Like this case:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6334308.ece

Oh and the ‘not proven’ (as currently used) verdict in Scottish Law stems from 1728 when a jury rejected the two options before them of ‘proven’ and ‘not proven’ and declared a defendant ‘not guilty’ (to emphasise their innocence). Legally both verdicts have the same effect.

Jeff // Posted 1 June 2010 at 10:37 pm

Polly,

Thanks. I never knew the standard of proof differed for Civil cases in the UK, I thought the sort of “OJ Phenomenon” was a quirk of the American legal system.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 2 June 2010 at 12:59 am

Even if a jury has padlocked, guaranteed, tamper-proofed evidence, they would still declare a rapist innocent, so a ‘not guilty’ doesn’t guarantee that they didn’t do it. I’d be willing to let a few “innocent” men suffer along with the guilty for the sake of getting some form of justice.

polly // Posted 2 June 2010 at 8:01 am

Jeff, since you are now admitting that some rape defendants who are acquitted are in fact guilty, I must presume that you are happy for them to get off. It’s a point of view. However the point being made by anon is that currently the bias is all one way.

There IS a problem with trying rape, I’ll be the first to admit it. Which is that it usually comes down to one person’s word against another’s.

However in all too many cases (see Phillipa Willit’s earlier piece on ‘silence does not equal consent’) either the jury believes ‘rape myths’ (such as silence DOES equal consent, she must have wanted sex if she went to his house, she asked for it because she was drunk/wearing a short skirt etc).

OR – far more likely – the case never makes court. I’m going to cite the case of Ian Huntley here. Huntley, before being convicted of the murder of two young girls was acccused a staggering five times of rape and of several other counts of indecent assault and underage sex.

NONE of these ever got to court. Not one. Don’t you think there’s maybe something wrong with the criminal justice system?:

Or do you think it was all a coincidence? Huntley was just unlucky to have met so many lying women/girls?

Jeff // Posted 2 June 2010 at 10:56 am

“Jeff, since you are now admitting that some rape defendants who are acquitted are in fact guilty, I must presume that you are happy for them to get off. It’s a point of view. However the point being made by anon is that currently the bias is all one way. ”

Excuse me? Do try not to be absurd, won’t you? Firstly, I never once denied that some rape defendants who are acquitted would be guilty. Infact, in my post to anon I specifically make the distinction between innocent men, and the guilty who got off.

Secondly, it’s ridiculous to presume that I am “happy” that guilty men are being let off, I really have no idea how you got that into your head.

“NONE of these ever got to court. Not one. Don’t you think there’s maybe something wrong with the criminal justice system?: ”

I think the problem is more with society, rather than the justice system. In the cases where, like you said, it’s just his word against hers then I firmly believe that acquittal is the only option. The day we have a justice system in which the accusation is also the proof will be a sad day indeed. Rape myths like “All women are liars about rape” are what needs to be adressed.

“Even if a jury has padlocked, guaranteed, tamper-proofed evidence, they would still declare a rapist innocent, so a ‘not guilty’ doesn’t guarantee that they didn’t do it. I’d be willing to let a few “innocent” men suffer along with the guilty for the sake of getting some form of justice.”

Loved the quotation marks around the word innocent there, pretty much puts your views in the open.

angercanbepower // Posted 2 June 2010 at 1:56 pm

Politicalguineapig and anon, you’re right, we do have to accept (for every crime) that some people will be falsely convicted if we want the law to act as a meaningful deterrent.

So, the question is, what do you think an acceptable false conviction rate is in rape cases?

Incidentally, John Rawls talks through this more generally in meticulous detail in response to E.F. Carritt’s question:

“If some kind of very cruel crime becomes common, and none of the criminals can be caught, it might be highly expedient, as an example, to hang an innocent man, if a charge against him could be so framed”

(in order to deter others from committing that crime in future. In case want to read the meticulously argued rejection of this Rawls puts forward, it’s in his essay Two Concepts of Rules.

coldharbour // Posted 2 June 2010 at 2:13 pm

“I’d be willing to let a few “innocent” men suffer along with the guilty for the sake of getting some form of justice.”

Would you be prepared to go to jail for a long time if you were innocent of doing something you were accused of?

Olivia // Posted 2 June 2010 at 4:45 pm

Is there something we can DO about this proposal? A petition to stop it? Anything?

CMK // Posted 3 June 2010 at 7:57 am

“I’d also urge caution that not being in such a situation in the first place is a far better defence than SD”

If A rapes B then A is wholly and exclusively at fault, that is self-evident. My comment was to suggest that if you want to be in a position to reduce the chance of it happening to you then there are steps you can take, one of which is self-defence, carrying mace spray, being especially alert and aware of your surroundings etc. People shouldn’t have to do these things but the world is far from perfect. It is one more step that can be taken – it shouldn’t have to be and it is not the individuals fault if they choose not to do it. I am just concerned that people think self-defence is the answer when it really isn’t.

“Do you seriously think, CMK, that most girls and women aren’t already super-conscious every single day of their lives of which ‘situations’ they should try and avoid?”

I think some people are very conscious and aware of their surroundings and the situations that they are in – both male and female. The world is a violent and vicious place and they are right to be so. Again they shouldn’t have to be but until the world changes it is safer to have the extra awareness.

Whilst I can see how part of my comment can be taken the way it was my intention was merely to convey that relying on self-defence alone is risky due to the speed at which things can happen and I simply didn’t want anyone to be under the illusion that self-defence makes people safe. Safer yes. Safe not necessarily. Again people shouldn’t have to learn it, it is not their fault if they don’t, but if they do then please do not think it is a panacea because it really isn’t.

anon // Posted 3 June 2010 at 11:28 pm

@Jeff ‘So, that means you aren’t interested in distinguishing between those who really are innocent, and those whom are guilty but got off, does it?’

– No, I think there are other ways of dealing with the tiny minority of men who are wrongly accused. It means that my concern is with the largest majority – those who are certainly innocent – the victims of rape.

Jess McCabe // Posted 4 June 2010 at 3:57 pm

@Olivia There is a petition, also it is definitely worth writing to your MP.

sianmarie // Posted 4 June 2010 at 4:56 pm

olivia – write to your MP. or to the enquiries email address at enquiries@geo.gsi.gov.uk

there’s a great website as well – the name escapes me – that gives you the opportunity to email your MP directly. otherwise just look him/her up.

i’ve posted my letter here:

http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com/2010/05/anonymity-for-rape-defendants.html

cim // Posted 4 June 2010 at 5:40 pm

The website for MP letters (and it works for MEPs, local councillors, members of the House of Lords, and so on as well) is http://www.writetothem.com/

Politicalguineapig // Posted 4 June 2010 at 5:53 pm

Ch: That’s unlikely, since I don’t have any enemies who’d want to frame me.

Jeff: Do you think women make accusations frivolously? Most rapists get away because the victim is aware that the justice system is rigged against her (and doubly so if it’s a him.) I treat all men warily, even my near and dears. For a woman, letting her guard down or trusting a man for even a second is a fatal mistake.

ACBP: John Rawls is dead on.

Sheila // Posted 4 June 2010 at 6:12 pm

@CMK

I am fine with your views about using proportionate self-defence if attacked. However, this is frequently turned on its head where rape victims are blamed for not using self-defence. When threatened in this way, many people cannot use cognitive actions like self-defence. They end up freezing or flopping. This reaction isn’t recognised enough as a normal and genuine one. Everyone says, “if it happened to me, I’d sock him one, or I’d kick him in the balls”. Faced with a man who is physically stronger with the advantage and power of surprise, these options just might not be available, or even if available might not be the ones that save your life. Don’t blame people who don’t use self-defence and don’t see it as a panacea. It isn’t.

Polly // Posted 5 June 2010 at 8:03 am

**My comment was to suggest that if you want to be in a position to reduce the chance of it happening to you then there are steps you can take, one of which is self-defence, carrying mace spray, being especially alert and aware of your surroundings etc. People shouldn’t have to do these things but the world is far from perfect.**

CMK the majority of rapes are carried out by either a partner or former partner. So the only bit of ‘being especially alert and aware of your surroundings’ that would stop you being raped is not having a partner. Unless there are rapists who have ‘rapist’ tattoed on their forehead. In which case I really must visit the optician, because my eyesight’s obviously deteriorated sharply.

polly // Posted 5 June 2010 at 8:05 am

Sorry I wasn’t completely accurate. Another way in which being aware of your surroundings could prevent rape is being alone in a locked, secure room. Obviously. There may be others I’ve missed, it’s quite early.

polly // Posted 5 June 2010 at 8:32 am

As I said Jeff in most rape cases, it’s one person’s word against anothers. Which means that in essence rape cases ARE decided on the balance of probabilities – despite the criminal standard of proof being ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. The jury decides who they believe the most. Who is the most credible

The thing about Huntley, though, it wasn’t one person, it was five. And a jury never got to hear their evidence. Which is a problem with the criminal justice system, not society. It was the police/CPS who decided not to prosecute.

I think that some people may think in retrospect, that was a mistake.

Given that in essence, it is someone’s credibility that decides who the jury believe, wouldn’t it make sense for juries to be able to know if similar allegations have been made against the defendant in the case of someone like Huntley?

The general legal principle is that previous convictions/allegations cannot be disclosed in case they bias a jury. However ‘similar fact’ evidence is sometimes admitted – for example when a couple were accused of one murder of a baby, the fact that twelve other bodies of babies were found in their garden was offered as supporting evidence. Since it was unlikely that all thirteen deaths were accidental.

http://www.richardwebster.net/similarfactevidence.html

The truth is that ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ is a bit of a moveable feast. For instance an offence was introduced specifically to deal with the situation where a child had died non accidentally in the care of two or more adults, but each blamed the other or refused to give evidence. Conviction ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ of murder of any individual was a bit difficult, so the offence of ‘causing or allowing the death of a child’ was introduced – it was the charge against the mother, boyfriend and lodger in the Baby P case.

Going back to the original subject of the post, the Huntley case seems to me to be a very good argument for NOT automatically allowing rape defendants anonymity. And an even better one for changing the criminal justice system. There may be some limited cases where defendants should remain anonymous, but I’d suggest that it should be a matter of their individual counsel putting an argument for that to the court.

polly // Posted 5 June 2010 at 9:30 am

Incidentally, the case of Robert Napper, who murdered Rachel Nickell, Samantha Bissett and her daughter Jasmine, is being reported on today. The police have been ordered to apologise to Nickell’s partner Andre Hanscombe for their failure to act when Napper’s mother told them he had admitted rape to her. A further series of blunders followed in which the police failed to arrest Napper for a number of rapes. He went on to commit the three murders.

We need to realise that if a defendant isn’t convicted of one rape they actually committed that may well not be the end of the matter. In fact cases like this, and the case of Worboys, suggest it frequently isn’t. Yes convicting/charging an innnocent person can have dire consequences. But so can not convicting a guilty one.

gadgetgal // Posted 5 June 2010 at 10:29 am

I’ve been following this thread for a bit to help me make up my mind on how I feel about this, and I want to thank polly for helping me sort that out – what you say makes complete sense, legally as well as morally. So I’m going to sign the petition for the government to reconsider this decision. And you make some fantastic points on the balance of probabilities in rape cases, maybe you should think about approaching your local MP to lobby for them to take some of your ideas on board? You make a logical and compelling argument, someone in power should hear it!

CMK // Posted 5 June 2010 at 7:22 pm

@Sheila

I am not aware that I have made any comments regarding proportionate self-defence? Generally I’d agree though.

I whole heartedly agree on the shock aspects which was in my original comment (Posted on 30 May 2010 at 11:24 AM).

SD is a fall-back which even with years of training it is by no means a guarantee. I have a recollection of an American firm that as part of training course would ‘attack’ their clients unexpectedly in order to help them practice for that very reason. This may have applied more to muggings though – the memory is hazy.

“Don’t blame people who don’t use self-defence and don’t see it as a panacea. It isn’t.”

1) This was the exact point that I was making

2) (for the purposes of clarity) I have not blamed people for not using self-defence

Sorry if this sounds defensive but some of my actual comments came across poorly so I’d rather not have any comments attributed to me unless I have actually made them (although I’m sure i’m guilty of the same, it’s quite easy to do).

coldharbour // Posted 5 June 2010 at 9:00 pm

@Politicalguineapig

“Ch: That’s unlikely, since I don’t have any enemies who’d want to frame me. ”

When discussing the morality of action we must abide by the principles of universality; we apply to ourselves the same standards we apply to others, if not more stringent ones. In other words the only way you could legitimately endorse others being falsely imprisoned from a moral point of view is if you thought it would be acceptable for yourself to be falsely imprisoned under any circumstances; the likelihood of it actually happening or not is in no way relevant to quantifying whether the principle is universally moral or not. You could justify it ( I would argue thats what you are openly doing) on the grounds that people who don’t fit into your own gender demographic should not be afforded the same universal human rights as you, a rather absurd position. In other words you can’t have your cake and eat it; your stance is either (1) false imprisonment is universally wrong on the grounds of egalitarianism or (2) biological males should not be afforded the same human rights as me on the grounds of increasing my personal security.

polly // Posted 6 June 2010 at 10:23 am

Thanks gadgetgal. I should perhaps point out that I didn’t come up with this idea unaided, but nicked it from a Channel 4 documentary a while back. So Channel 4 have already made the case, but HM gov obviously weren’t watching.

They examined the case of a man who had been accused of rape 7 times by completely unconnected women and not convicted once. In each case the (alleged) modus operandi was similar. And it was – from what I remember – the typical ‘date rape’ scenario – meet a woman in a nightclub, walk her home, result, rape accusation.

Now he could of course have been very unlucky. But what are the odds?

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