Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Consent and the Law of Rape

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Consent and the Law of Rape

Article excerpt

THE law on "date rape", where the victim is drunk, has proved notoriously hard to tighten. But the recommendations from a Home Office advisory council significantly improve protection for victims in such a situation.

It is plainly wrong for a man to take advantage of a woman - or man - who is drunk, but proving in court that the sequence of events constitutes rape can prove extremely difficult. Defendants can claim that they believed the victim gave consent and if, as in a third of all rape claims, the victim has drunk at least some alcohol, and cannot remember exactly what happened, the case becomes a matter of one person's word against another's. In the absence of witnesses, courts are reluctant to convict. Only one in 20 allegations made to police leads to a conviction, and that rate has fallen in recent years.

But for women to forfeit their legal protection simply as a result of having had a few drinks is unjust.

The council's solution is to set up procedures for establishing whether the victim was capable of giving consent. The law already says that a victim who is asleep or unconscious cannot give consent.

A victim who could be defined as drunk, even if not unconscious, should also be deemed incapable of giving genuine consent. And her level of intoxication could be established by objective medical tests after reporting a rape - as could the presence of certain "date rape" drugs. Provided that the medical evidence was reliable, this would at least reduce rapists' ability to lie about consent.

It would be important to rule out malicious prosecutions by women falsely accusing allege rape. And a change in the law would not change male attitudes overnight. However, as the Solicitor General reviews this difficult area, he should look closely at an idea which could give some rape victims the justice they deserve.

Back to the GLC THE Mayor, Ken Livingstone, nurses a longstanding admiration for Cuba and its leader, Fidel Castro.

But why should he expect London as a whole to share that opinion? Mr Livingstone is planning to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution in 2009 with a large festival. …

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