Sunday, 4 February 2007

Panic over rape conviction rates

I know this story is a few days old, but I've been too busy until now to comment on last week's hand-wringing over conviction rates for rape. The issue is, for obvious reasons, an emotive one which inevitably means that people approach it with less detachment and rationalism than, say, burglary. The statistic being bounced around was five percent, or one in twenty. This, we are told, is the percentage of rape cases which result in a conviction. Numerous solutions are being discussed, the most likely one being a change to the law on consent. Women (and yes, I know male rape exists, but recent reports have concentrated on female victims) who are so drunk they'll agree to anything would not be giving valid consent to sex. At first blush, many people would see this proposal as a sensible way of dealing with a horrifying problem. But there are a number of other factors to be taken into account.

Firstly, that statistic refers to allegations of rape, not cases which end up in court. There are a number of reasons why an allegation might not make it to court. These include unwillingness to report the matter to the police in the first place, a failure to identify or apprehend the alleged rapist, a total lack of evidence of any crime or indeed strong evidence that it cannot possibly have happened. If all of these hurdles are overcome and there is a trial, there are still myriad reasons why the defendant might not be convicted. In all criminal trials, the prosecution have to satisfy the jury so that they are sure (we used to say "beyond reasonable doubt") of the defendant's guilt. If they are not sure, then they must find him not guilty. The standard of proof in rape cases is no different. As unpalatable as this is to many people, just as there are people who make false complaints of burglary, robbery or violence, there are women who make false accusations of rape. There are many reasons why people do this - shame and regret after a one-night-stand, dislike of a stepfather or fury at an ex-partner to name but a few. Allegations are easy to make and enormously difficult to resile from once made. False allegations not only place innocent men in grave danger, they may well also decrease the chance of genuine victims having the confidence to report rape or being believed if they do report one.

As I touched on earlier, huge problems arise in cases where alcohol in involved. Historically, the law has been that drunken consent is nonetheless consent. Clearly, if somebody is so drunk they are barely conscious or unaware of their surroundings, they are not capable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Matters are set to become more complicated in cases where women only consent because they are drunk. There is much talk of how men who "take advantage" of women in this position should be liable to be convicted of rape. But so many people, male and female, get drunk and behave in a way that they wouldn't if sober. Even if we haven't done so ourselves (the legal beagle makes no admissions either way) we all know somebody who has got hammered and told their boss what they really think of them/sung on the karaoke machine/slept with somebody who they wouldn't have looked twice at before but who seems irresistable after 15 G&Ts. Men who sleep with women who would be out of their league were it not for the fact that they were drunk are certainly unchivalrous. But are they really rapists? And apart from cases of drink-spiking, who has made the decision to get drunk in the first place?

Nobody could sensibly argue that women are to blame for being attacked, whether they are drunk or sober, dressed in a mini-skirt or a pair of tracksuit bottoms. But we need to take some responsibility for the decisions we make after drinking our inhibitions away. Doubtless, there are rapes which go unreported and defendants who are wrongly acquitted, and this is tragic. But the worst response is to think with our hearts rather than our heads and let emotion take over from rational analysis of the evidence.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

glad i found your blog.as a serving pc all i can say is that in my 4+ short years i have been to numerous "rape" allegations and most are just simply funny.don't get me wrong,i go with an open mind and only once was i the "oic" but every one has fallen apart within minutes,despite that fact in two cases i remember the "offender" was detained and had to go through due process.
the classic example was a 17 yr old who was 5 months pregant,married for 3 months,who went into town with her "business partner" (even though she didnt know his full name,have anything set up re this business and wasn't quite sure what the business was) got drunk,slept with him and when her new husband got suspicious when she got home around 1 am claimed she was raped and called us.
he was arrested soon afterwards and his reply to caution was priceless "cheeky bitch,i paid for her taxi home"
needless to say he was released nfa but not after his world was turned upsidedown, but for that night most of the shift were engagued on this job,soco turn out,cid etc.

Anonymous said...

I have been learning about the myths of rape - one of these is it is easy to allege and hard to refute.

Anonymous said...

RE: Consent and alcohol - I would guess that in a lot of cases both parties will have been drinking - so would the woman then also be guilty of sexual assault? Logically if she is too drunk to consent to sex, isn't there at least the possibiliy that he is equally incapable? (assuming the drinking together, end up in bed togehter, scenario). Surely both parties should have some responsibility for teir own actions?

Bagpuss

randomgirl said...

It is interesting to read these comments. My dissertation last year was on rape, ("guilty until proven innocent?") in which I disucussed the exact same issues and indeed the truth behnd the statistics. Yes around 5% end up in conviction but the conviction rate for cases which actually get to trial is similar to murder! Those that do not go to trial surely do not pass the CPS evidential test? I further discussed proposals to change the law on drunken consent after reading numerous articles which made me extremely angry as they talked about women in court who, if raped when they are drunk 'do not have a legal leg to stand on.' The case they referred to in particular was that of a girl in court who claimed she could not remember consenting to sex because she was too drunk. Many seemed to think the case was thrown out due to it being her own fault for being drunk, or that as she was drunk she was fair game but in actual fact, it was clearly because she could not remember what happened! What happened to beyond reasonable doubt? I totally agree with Bagpuss' comments - consent is a two way street not just down to the man to obtain!

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course. Women are just vindictive little bitches that cry rape on a regular basis when they regret or feel anger towards a guy. You do realise how misogynistic your post and comments section are?
It's amusing how much emphasis is put on biological differences between men and women in society, but when it comes to having sex, '[l]ogically if she is too drunk to consent to sex, isn't there at least the possibiliy that he is equally incapable?'
Well, yes, it would be possible if she were inserting a dildo into him. Are you just completely oblivious to the mechanics of sex?

You are scum if you prey on drunk women for sex, it's as simple as that. If you have any doubts about whether the women is too drunk to consent, then you shouldn't be having sex with her. But god forbid anything that gets in the way of a man's right to sex, regardless of whether she wants it.

Anonymous said...

i'm a rape victim that has not yet reported it... i now have a baby from this person (an ex-boyfriend). when i told family court what happened... the judge yelled at me and said i was trying to keep my daughter's father from her... that's not justice... now she goes "overnight" with a rapist... and somehow it's all my fault b/c i never reported it...

any said...

my son has been in prison on remand for 7 months, lost his house, lost his job, now has depression,
the so called victim says she was raped, after she was approached by someone who said "have you been raped"
the victim had spent the previous 7 hours, drinking and dirty dancing with men, told her best friend not to tell her boyfriend, and said she would pull whoever that night.
the victim was touching up lots of men, but ended up walking around the streets for over 1 hour (cctv evidence missing after this and other important parts)
The victim also said she had not touched or danced with any men, and denied knowing her way around the town.

ON cctv it shows her being mugged but is bad quality and could have been enhanced but CPS etc did not bother.

We are now waiting to go to Jury, but alot of information has been hidden and lost to help her case.
This is obviously an effect of the government wanting more convictions, but if there is no evidence then thats it, but the police and cps are actively interfering with evidence to gain a conviction.
I now believe after all this that our justice system is at the control of Hyped up Policy makers.

THE WHOLE SYSTEM STINKS AND I PRAY FOR MY SON

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but it doesn't matter what a woman does - it doesn't even matter if she sleeps around or dresses provocatively - it still doesn't give someone the right to rape her.

Also, I'm sorry, but if you think that 94% of women reporting a rape were making it up, you have a very dim view of the female sex.

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