reluctant to convict men of rape if woman was drunk - 6th
are reluctant to convict men of rape if the woman who brings the
allegation was drunk, research has found.
said that when jurors believe a woman was intoxicated, it is
reasonable for a man to take her silence as consent to sex.
findings are compelling fresh evidence that juries composed of
ordinary people are unwilling to comply with Government demands to
deliver more convictions for rape.
say there are too few convictions and have been altering the rape
laws in order to try to get more men jailed after rape trials.
Barely five per cent of allegations end in conviction. But the way
they have changed the law appears to breach the rights of any man
accused to a fair trial - that is after they removed the normal
safeguards to the high number of false allegations, by forcing
judges not to give the normal warning about convicting on just the
say so of a claimant.
key element of the controversy over rape has been the question of
when a man who has sex with a drunken woman can claim that he
thought she consented. If a woman is drunk the man is usually
drunk as well, but the police don't take urine samples from men in
the normal course of events - thus denying them the evidence to
prove what the social situation was at the time. Many women are
not taking advantage of the change in the law to get revenge on
men for the smallest thing. It sound far fetched but it is true.
years ago the Government brought in new laws to try to get more
guilty verdicts. The 2003 Sexual Offences Act changed the rules so
that a defendant in a rape trial could no longer defend himself by
claiming he honestly believed the woman consented.
the Act came into force, a defendant has had to pass a tougher
test and show it was reasonable for him to believe she consented.
Government-sponsored research found that juries are not
sympathetic to the idea that drunken sex should end in a rape
conviction more often - and a long jail sentence for the man.
Vanessa Munro and Emily Finch asked mock jurors to consider seven
different scripted sets of rape trial evidence. Each trial was
considered by three different 'juries' recruited through local
newspaper and radio adverts.
found that jurors regularly took the view that it was reasonable
for a man to assume that silence meant consent, even if the woman
was too drunk to speak.
juries also held a woman responsible for her actions if she had
accepted drinks from the defendant, failed to resist pressure to
drink more, or did not take care to make sure her drink was not
spiked by more alcohol or drugs.
were reluctant to convict a defendant who had doctored a woman's
drinks unless he had specifically intended to commit sexual
assault - as opposed to just loosening her inhibitions.
the researchers said, were also less inclined to convict a man for
rape of a drunken woman if she regularly drank heavily in the
company of men.
findings, published by the Government's Economic and Social
Research Council, brought calls from both the academics involved
and the Home Office for more efforts to 'tackly myths' about rape
and make juries more willing to convict.
Munro said: "The findings reflect the hold that gender
stereotypes still have. They suggest that rape myths can have a
profound influence on jurors. More needs to be done to secure
justice for victims of rape."
some judges, lawyers and criminologists believe that the Home
Office is leaning on juries to convict innocent men and that
jurors are right to resist pressure.
David Green of the Civitas think tank said: "The whole point
of a jury is that it allows the opinions of wider society to be
heard in the justice system.
study appears to show that juries are reflecting public opinion,
which broadly is that people have a personal responsibility for
their behaviour. If a woman gets drunk and loses control, that is
something for which she is responsible and must take the
man who has sex with her in that state may be acting in an
ungentlemanly way, but that is not a crime."
Green added: "A jury is there to bring elites crashing down -
especially in areas like rape law which has been subject to a
sectarian campaign by extreme feminists."
this year Solicitor General Mike O'Brien said rape conviction
rates were "unacceptably low", with only 751 convictions
from more than 14,000 rape allegations in 2004.
announced plans to allow "expert" witnesses to explain
to juries the damaging impact of rape, and video evidence showing
distraught women in police stations within hours of alleged rapes.
the plans have not yet been pushed through, partly because of
concern amont judges and lawyers that high numbers of rape
allegations prove groundless and that juries should not be
Home Office said that ministers are considering a new legal
definition of "capacity to consent" in rape trials.
spokesman said: "We need to tackle the myths, particularly
the view that victims are either partially or fully responsible
for the assault they have experienced if they have been drinking.
is never the responsibility of the victim, whatever the
report on This is
Wiltshire says that police wasted more than 120
hours' work when a team of 14 officers was set up to find a rapist
who never existed.
17-year-old girl, who claimed to have been attacked in Faringdon
Road Park late on Monday night, confessed yesterday to having made
the story up. She could now be taken to court for wasting police
time, just as a 20-year-old Liden woman was in May.
Insp Mark Garrett, who was leading the investigation, has moved to
reassure the public that there is no sex attacker on the loose.
in the park yesterday said they were horrified at the actions of
the girl. A team of seven detectives and seven uniformed officers
was assembled to catch the man who allegedly carried out the
attack. But officers noted a number of inconsistencies in her
story and yesterday she withdrew her allegation.
Insp Garrett said: "There is no sex attacker for this alleged
incident as the man never existed so I want to put the local
community's fears at rest. "I identified a number of
inconsistencies throughout the investigation which did concern me
but I continue to investigate with an open mind until she withdrew
her allegation. "It is very frustrating when crimes are
falsely reported to the police.
great deal of time and resources are put into investigating
serious crimes such as this alleged rape, which also,
understandably, generates fear within the community."
Insp Garrett also said genuine victims of sexual assaults should
not hesitate to come forward.
would like to reassure genuine rape victims that they will receive
complete victim care and encourage them to contact the
police," he said.
reporting is a serious matter and each case is considered for
wasting police time."
Michael Berry, a chartered clinical forensic psychologist who
practises in Manchester, said there were a number of possible
explanations for the girl's behaviour, including attention
seeking, regretting consensual sex with someone or suffering post
traumatic stress disorder from a past rape. "Those are the
most common reasons," he said. "It does tend to be
younger women in the sense that you are unlikely to have a 50 plus
woman making a false allegation of rape....."
PROMINENT MISCARRIAGES OF JUSTICE:
(Falsely Accused Carers and Teachers)
PO Box 3074
Cardiff CF3 3WZ
Tel: 029 2077 7499
Campaigning organisation and support group which provides help and
advice to falsely accused and wrongly convicted carers and
teachers throughout the UK. The website contains a range of
information, leaflets, books and links.
for education staff and volunteers in schools
This website has guidance on: 1) staff facing an allegation of
abuse; 2) preventing 'abuse of trust' for education staff; and 3)
the conduct of education staff working with young people.
scales of injustice
Miscarriages of justice are an everyday occurence. As the
government plans a thorough overhaul of criminal justice, it
needs to ask why so many unsafe convictions are overturned. The
wrongly convicted are victims too.
Observer Crime and Justice debate
Sunday July 28, 2002
government's criminal justice reforms, proposed in the
recently published White Paper, are based on a 'single clear
priority' to 'rebalance' the criminal justice system 'in
favour of the victims of crime' and to 'bring more offenders
to justice'. The explicit goal is to make it easier for the
prosecution to secure guilty verdicts and to convict more
people. This would seem to be at odds with the reality of
criminal justice in England and Wales. The prison population
stands at an all time high of over 70 thousand and the
prosecution already achieves the conviction of over 95 per
cent of defendants at magistrates' courts and 87 per cent of
defendants in the Crown Court.
White Paper seems to be to forget that that not all of those
brought to trial will be guilty. A reform agenda framed in a
language of 'putting the victim first' overlooks the fact that
there are many victims of the present criminal justice system.
Any human system can make mistakes, and that miscarriages of
justice can and do occur. But, just how many miscarriages of
justice victims of the present system are there?
tend to think about miscarriages of justice as rare and
exceptional occurrences. Prominent cases such as the
Birmingham six, Guildford Four, Bridgewater four, M25 three,
Cardiff three, Stephen Downing, and so on create the
impression that miscarriages of justice are seen as very much
an intermittent, high profile and small scale problem; that
there are very few victims in the context of the statistics of
all criminal convictions. But there are many more cases than
those which receive prominent coverage in the media. Those
cases of criminal conviction that are routinely quashed by the
Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), or by the Crown Court for
convictions previously obtained in the magistrates' court have
received no attention at all.
we pay more attention to these routinely quashed convictions,
we find a scale of miscarriage of justice to fundamentally
challenges any notion that the current system of criminal
justice is weighted too much in favour of the defendant. The
Lord Chancellor's Department's statistics on successful
appeals against criminal conviction show that in the decade
1989-1999 the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) abated over
8,470 criminal convictions - a yearly average of 770. In
addition, there are around 3,500 quashed criminal convictions
a year at the Crown Court for convictions obtained at the
magistrates' courts. Contrary to popular perceptions, then,
wrongful criminal convictions are a normal, everyday feature
of the criminal justice system - the system doesn't just
sometimes get it wrong, it gets it wrong everyday, of every
week, of every month of every year. With the result that
thousands of innocent people experience a whole variety of
harmful consequences that wrongful criminal convictions
for All also states that there is an 'absolute determination
to create a system that meets the needs of society', 'wins the
trust of citizens' and 'acquits the innocent'. Accordingly,
the government might think about proposing reforms that would
counter the causes of the thousands of routine wrongful
criminal convictions that occur each year under the present
criminal justice system. These (still) include misdirection by
judges which is the most common cause of routine successful
appeals; unreliable confessions such as in the cases of Robert
Downing, the Cardiff Newsagent three, Andrew Evans, and King
and Waugh who between them spent almost a century of wrongful
imprisonment based on the unreliable confessions of the
and other incentives which created unreliable 'cell confession
evidence' that featured most recently in the case of Reg
Dudley and Robert Maynard who each served over 20 years of
wrongful imprisonment as a consequence of a 'bargain' between
the police and an informant who received a reduced sentence
for his part in a robbery in exchange for the necessary
evidence for conviction; non-disclosure of vital evidence as
in the case of John Kamara who also spent 20 years of wrongful
imprisonment because over 200 statements were withheld from
his defence team; malicious accusations such as in the case of
Roy Burnett who spent 15 years of wrongful imprisonment for a
rape that the Court of Appeal said 'almost certainly never
happened', or Roger Beardmore who spent three years in prison
(of a nine year sentence) for the paedophile rape of a young
girl who later admitted that she had lied to get her mother's
attention; badly conducted defences such as in the case of
Mark Day who was convicted for murder with two others despite
the fact that he did not know his co-defendants, a fact that
his defence failed to bring to the court's attention; and,
'racism' such as in the case of the M25 three, the case in
which three black men were wrongly imprisoned for 10 years
despite the fact that witnesses had claimed that two of the
offenders were white and four of six victims had referred to
at least one of the offenders as white. And this is by no
means exhaustive list of the causes of injustice.
thinking about proposing reforms of the criminal justice
system to reduce the conviction of the innocent it might also
be pertinent to include some of the possible causes of
miscarriages of justice that might never feature in the
official statistics of successful appeals. Likely candidates
include the 'time loss rule', under which when the wrongly
imprisoned apply for an appeal they are advised that if their
appeal is ultimately unsuccessful it could result in
substantial increases to their sentence. The effect of this is
to transform what was intended as a minor check on groundless
applications into a major barrier in some meritorious cases.
There are also the miscarriages of justice that can result
from charge, plea and sentence 'bargaining' and the 'parole
deal'. All of these induce innocent people to plead guilty to
criminal offences that they have not committed and present a
'dark figure' of miscarriages of justice that can never be
is clear that the present system of criminal justice is,
indeed, in urgent need of reform. But this should not be in
the direction of a relaxation of the system in favour of
obtaining more guilty verdicts and convicting more people.
Rather, the present system needs to a reformed in the
direction of 're-balancing' it with its stated aims, namely,
to safeguard against convicting of the innocent. The present
system makes far too many mistakes. Convicting more of those
brought to trial will undoubtedly mean making even more
mistakes and convicting even more innocent victims.
Naughton is a postgraduate researcher looking at the
harmful consequences of miscarriages of justice in the
Department of Sociology, University of Bristol.
us your views
Observer site editor Sunder Katwala at firstname.lastname@example.org
with comments on articles or ideas for future pieces. You can
write to the author of this piece at M.Naughton@Bristol.ac.uk.
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Naughton: the scale of wrongful convictions
Children in prison: Observer campaign
special: campaign updates
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behind bars: why we back the campaign
Scrap this law
A welcome campaign for social justice
fear for teen victims of Blunkett's get-tough rules
Get in touch at
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New thinking on justice at last
Griffiths QC: Counsel for the defence
Riddell: Addressing the causes
Bright: time to understand a little more?
Wright: the case for restorative justice
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convicted: 'We were victims too'
Odone: Cherie has got it right
Bridges: Smart reform, not populism
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More Observer specials
myths and reality
More from Guardian Unlimited
report: home affairs
Carl L. and Caldas, Stephen J., Family Structure, Schoolmates,
and Racial Inequalities in School Achievement, Journal of
Marriage and the Family 60:3 (1998), 715-723.
J., Desrochers, S.,Devall, E. Comparison of Role Demands,
Relationships, and Child Functioning is Single-Mother,
Single-Father, and Intact Families. Journal of Divorce and
Remarriage ,35(?) 29-56.
L.; Crain, R; Harrington, A.M. One-Parent Households and
Achievement: Economic and Behavioral Explanations of a Small
Effect. Sociology of Education, 1992, 65, 1, Jan, 48-65
Suet-ling The School Compositional Effect of Single Parenthood
on 10th Grade Achievement, Sociology of Education 71:1 (1998),
Robert J. Father absence, parental care, and female
reproductive development. Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume
24, Issue 6, November 2003, Pages 376-390
Leslie N.; Schmiege, Cynthia J. Family Relations, Vol. 42, No.
3, Family Diversity. (Jul., 1993), pp. 277-285.
Barbara J., and Park, Kyung. (1988). Just The Two of Us:
Parent-Child Relationships in Single-Parent Homes. Journal of
Marriage and the Family, 1988, 50, 4, Nov, 1049.
G. (September 4, 2005) “Boys without fathers is not a
logical new idea.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock,
News Service. (2005 July 20). “America’s Children: Family
Structure and Children’s Well-Being
taken from Neale B and Wade A (2000) 'Parent problems!
Children's views on life when parents split up', Young
COUNCIL FOR ONE PARENT FAMILIES
charity no: 230750
This is a list of the most recent items found in the
national press concerning single parents. Please use the Message
Board if you want to comment on a news item.
must target child poverty
Family-income poverty doesn't only affect children's educational
achievements (Response, September 26), and thus their
opportunities and choices in the labour market, but also their
future health and its associated costs.
at home leads to inequality in the classroom
Improving schools is vital - but the issue of family income can't
families need support, not blame
The proposal to provide early support for vulnerable families
through health visitors is welcome, but the suggestion that they
predict which parents are at risk of bringing up children who will
be offenders is dangerous.
the roost (20.Sep.2006)
The Incredible Years parenting programme is being held up by
ministers as a model of good practice
The chief executive of children's charity NCH welcomes the
government's latest plans for vulnerable children but tells Alison
Benjamin that removing benefits as a method of coercion for
problem parents will not work
Full text of the education secretary's speech to the Social Market
cookery lessons be compulsory?
From 2008, cookery classes will be offered to all secondary
hard-pressed parents really need in the way of help
By Sue Cohen, director of Single Parent Action Network
The Prime Minister might be retreating from the controversy of
last week's "baby Asbos" speech, but labelling and
stigma still seem to be the order of the day.
at birth needed to save problem children, insists Blair (06.Sep.2006)
· PM defends plan to help young in troubled homes
· More cash promised to aid socially excluded
approach to children (04.Sep.2006)
Behind Tony Blair's plans to support early intervention in the
lives of "problem children" because they might become a
"menace to society"
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