Women Agree with Me on Rape, Claims Clarke; Justice Secretary Reignites Row over Sex Crimes

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Byline: James Chapman Political Editor

MOST women agree that some rapes are more serious than others, Kenneth Clarke insisted yesterday.

The Justice Secretary's remarks reignited the controversy over his suggestion earlier this year that only attacks by strangers constitute 'proper' sex crimes.

Mr Clarke was forced to apologise at the time after drawing distinctions between different types of sex attack as he defended now-abandoned plans for shorter jail terms for rapists.

He said a 'serious rape' involved 'violence and an unwilling woman'. But yesterday, appearing on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, the Justice Secretary mounted a determined defence of his comments.

'My remarks about rape were eminently sensible and agreed to by most women I knew,' Mr Clarke said. 'There was a mass hysteria set off by a rather entertaining range of parodies about what I was supposed to have said. The basic theme I was on was that rape is always a serious crime but some rapes are more serious than others.

'The circumstances of some are deeply shocking - others are shocking - and that is why we have a range of tariffs for it. That was parodied in dozens of different ways in the typical hoo-ha of the next two to three days.'

Earlier this year, the Justice Secretary prompted a storm of criticism as he tried to defend proposals to encourage early guilty pleas by offering 50 per cent sentencing discounts for those who admit wrongdoing at the earliest stage.

Eventually, Downing Street stepped in to overrule Mr Clarke and block the idea.

The Justice Secretary suggested there were differences between 'serious', 'proper', 'forcible', and 'date rape', as well as consensual sex with underage girls. …