Wednesday, 13 January 2010

No justice, as usual

[trigger warning]

Yet another rape trial collapses as the victim is found to not have been sufficiently close to society's requirements for rape victims. From the BBC article

Five men have been cleared of raping a woman after it emerged she had spoken online about group sex fantasies. The 24-year-old from Liverpool claimed she was raped after visiting one of the men at his home in Bolton, after making contact on the internet. But the trial at Preston Crown Court collapsed when computer evidence was produced showing her entertaining the prospect of group sex.

The prosecutor:

"It is right to say that there is material in the chatlogs from the complainant, who is prepared to entertain ideas of group sex with strangers, where to use her words 'her morals go out of the window'. This material does paint a wholly different light as far as this case is concerned."

The judge:

"This case depended on the complainant's credibility. Not to put too fine a point on it, her credibility was shot to pieces."

So, let's get this clear: because the victim had at some point expressed a desire to have sex with a group of people, and because she had at some point wanted to have sex with one of the accused, she must therefore have consented to sex with all of them. That's not how consent works. That's not even how the somewhat inadequate legal definition of consent works.

It is, of course, pretty much exactly the rape culture definition of consent. If you've ever even thought about a particular type of sex you are forever more consenting to it. It's a definition of consent that would rightly be laughed right out of court and into a jail cell for any other crime.

There is nothing in this piece of evidence presented (presumably by the defence) that implies that on this particular occasion she consented, and presumably there was a case the prosecution thought winnable before this non-sequitur was revealed or it wouldn't even have reached trial.

Essentially the prosecution decided to throw the case based on being given an irrelevant piece of evidence, and the judge said "good choice".

I have a letter from my MP, in reply to this earlier letter, in which they say:

"[...] All rape cases are now handled by senior and highly trained specialist rape prosecutors. [...]"

I'm now wondering, "highly trained" in what, exactly? "Reinforcing rape culture and getting paid for it"? "Kicking victims while they're down"? "Running away in terror when the going gets difficult"?

I've sent the following letter to my MP:

Thank you for your reply of 12 October 2009 regarding the various steps that the government has been taking in recent years to prevent and prosecute rape. In it, you write "All rape cases are now handled by senior and highly trained specialist rape prosecutors."

In the news today, at, is the collapse of a rape trial at Preston Crown Court. Five defendants were accused of rape and conspiracy to rape, but the trial collapsed because it was revealed that the woman they were accused of raping had previously spoken online about group sex, and the prosecution then decided to offer no evidence.

The logic followed by the prosecutor, and agreed with by the judge, as far as can be determined from their statements, is that because the woman had previously spoken online about group sex, they therefore would permanently and forever more consent to any and all group sex acts, and therefore there could not have been rape committed. This logic is never applied to any crime other than rape, and is a product of the misconceptions about rape that the recent changes in the law were intended to combat.

It is a well-known problem that anyone other than the "perfect victim" has a much more difficult task in obtaining justice. I assumed, when I read your previous letter, that the training received by the specialist prosecutors included how to counteract the bringing up of these harmful stereotypes and irrelevant facts in court to improve the chances of the victims receiving justice, and hoped that it would help the majority of rape victims who do not fit society's stereotype of who a rape victim should be.

It seems from this that at least some of these specialist prosecutors not only do not know how to properly refute these false arguments, but in fact believe the arguments themselves. This is a very worrying problem, implying severe inadequacies in both the selection and training of the specialist prosecutors.

What further steps will the government be taking, in light of this and similar cases, to strengthen the training and selection of the specialist prosecutors to the extent required to reliably give future rape victims justice?