Monday, January 29, 2007

Attack on personal responsibility - Part I

The British government is desperate to increase the conviction rate in rape cases, argues Stephen Matthew syed in The Times' Thunderer column.

Convictions for rape are pathetically low. Police recorded 14,449 allegations of rape in 2005, a rise of 247% since 1991. However, only 12% of cases actually reached court and then only one in 19 men was convicted.

Ministers are proposing, despite the opposition of the Council of Circuit Judges and the Criminal Bar Association, to amend the concept of consent in cases of serious sexual assault, so that consent when given in a state of intoxication is not recognised in court. Rape laws were tightened in 2003, making it clear that people who have lost consciousness are incapable of giving consent, but this did not lead to a rise in conviction rates.

The government has found that in 120 cases of sexual assault examined by researchers, in 119 cases the woman had been drinking.

The idea emerged after an aborted trial last year in which an alleged victim of rape admitted under cross-examination that she was too drunk to remember whether she had consented to intercourse or not — but went on to say that, even if she had consented, she was too inebriated for such consent to be meaningful. The judge, Mr. Justice Roderick Evans, ordered the jury to return a not guilty verdit saying

"Drunken consent is still consent"

This assault on the concept of personal responsibility and free will raises the following questions the government must answer;

  • Can the accused also use drunkenness as an excuse for evading responsibility for his actions?
  • Can drunk men too be the victims of rape by sober females? If so, why not?
  • Can being drunk now be a legitimate defence in cases of causing death by dangerous driving? Logically it now must be a mitigating factor.
  • How will 'being drunk' be measured? Rates of alcohol decay differ from person to person.
  • How can a man ensure that a prospective sexual partner is not drunk? Must men carry breathylysers to the nightclub with them?

Teyd concludes that

"The Government must recognise that its proposal is offensive to women, oppressive of men and sets a legal and philosophical precedent that will corrode the concept of personal responsibility. "

Indeed. Or as one Timesonline commenter put it,

"A lot of innocent men will be convicted for the crime of not calling the girl back."