All entries for Thursday 07 December 2006

December 07, 2006

Rape might not be rape if you're drunk…

Writing about web page http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2490449,00.html

This is from The Times so there was plenty of sensationalism to wade through. The proper “news” is contained in the first paragraph.

Juries are reluctant to convict men of rape in cases where the alleged victim has been drinking, research published today suggests.

Then we have:

The findings suggest that juries, as much as the Crown Prosecution Service or police, are responsible for the low rate of rape convictions. Fewer than 6 per cent of rape allegations result in successful convictions.

The research [...] also indicated that juries hold a drunken victim partially responsible for what happens.
/> This is either because she accepted drinks from the defendant, failed to stand her ground against pressure to drink more or did not take adequate care to ensure that her drinks were not spiked.

Another finding was that jurors were less inclined to see “taking advantage” of a drunken woman as rape in situations where the woman’s normal behaviour was to drink heavily in the company of men.
...
By contrast, where the drug Rohypnol had been used, jurors were more inclined to hold the defendant responsible for rape, even if the effect of the drug was the same as if a woman were very drunk.
...
Dr Vanessa Munro[...] “These findings reflect the hold that gender stereotypes still have. They suggest that ‘rape myths’ can have a profound influence upon jurors.”
...
This month Jonathan Hagan was cleared of raping an undergraduate after a freshers’ party at the University of Nottingham, where he was student union president. The girl said that she was so drunk that she could remember nothing more than Hagan removing her underwear before she passed out.

First a comment on these statements before we get on to the statistics given at the end of the article. In the final quoted paragraph, the student remembered that the man had removed her pants before she remembers nothing else (ie claims to have passed out). If she remembers him removing her pants then it would also seem to be a consensual sexual act. The article doesn’t go into great detail, but I would guess that getting into a position where he is removing underwear, intercourse would be the logical conclusion. So it would seem to me that the jury made the right decision in the case. It would also seem to me that it is about as much a rape as an attractive man getting really drunk, having sex with an ugly woman, waking up without remembering anything more than having had his pants removed but seeing that he’s woken up next to a woman with whom he’d normally not have had intercourse and coming to the conclusion that he’d been raped. It would be laughed out of court.

It also seems that juries are leaning in the right directions when it comes to convictions based upon drug-use vs “taking advantage” of drunk women who’ve had a history of getting drunk around men. The usage of such a drug as rohypnol, without the woman’s consent, leading to intercourse seems to me to be clear-cut rape. Having sexual intercourse with a woman who is so drunk as to barely remember the details does not seem to be a clear-cut case of rape. I don’t see the controversy. Nor do I see it as a perpetuation of rape myths. Not all jurors are men. Many jurors are women who will know what it is like to have been drunk. The key is to avoid getting very drunk without making sure you have at least one friend to watch your back in advance.

As for the statistics afterwards, they seem to be very misleading and sensationalist. 5.7% of rape allegations lead to convictions.

OK. But 66% drop out at the police stage, presumably either through embarrassment (I am not saying that it is merited, just one of the psychological reactions to rape), fear or some other such motivation on the part of the woman (or man). So of those we have 34% which continue through the police stage. Of that 34%, 25% are deemed to not be crimes by the police. which means that a further 8.5% of the original claims are deemed to not be crimes. Which means that we have a figure of about 25% of the original allegations being investigated as crimes. 50% of those deemed worthy of criminal investigation (I presume since the artile doesn’t quite define its terms) lead to no further action by the police. One can only imagine that it is due to a significant lack of evidence because once criminal proceedings are begun by the police, the alleged victim cannot simply withdraw her claim without making herself a target of prosecution. Which means that 12.5% of the original figure are claims evidenced enough to warrant the case going to court. As 5.7% of the cases lead to convictions, then about 46% of claims with evidence of sexual activity and/or lack of consent lead to a conviction and presumably a rape conviction. Which means that of the 56% that don’t lead to a conviction, it is entirely possible that quite a substantial number lead to convictions for sexual assault or assault of some kind (ie plea bargains).

Now I don’t think that plea bargains should be part of the system. And I do believe that the punishment system needs an overhaul (but that is a legislative issue and not the fault of the courts). And of course this does not mean that there aren’t inadequacies in the policing or justice systems in this country. But I dislike this statistic-based rhetoric that because there are x allegations then there must be x percentage convictions.

I think that a conviction rate (of rape) of about 50% all evidenced cases of alleged rapes is a figure that shows that the police are working properly on the whole.


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