Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Classic column: the rape laws are refashioned to convict more men, the innocent be damned

A classic column from the UK Mail:


Melanie Phillips

ONCE again, the House of Lords has ridden to the rescue of elementary justice, fairness and common sense. Once again, the Government has announced it is determined to prevent their Lordships from carrying out this service to the nation.

Earlier this week, peers voted in an amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill that the names of defendants in rape cases should be kept secret.

The Government promptly announced that it would overturn this decision when the bill returned to the Commons. The Home Office minister Lord Falconer told the Lords the criminal justice system had to remain open and transparent.

But women who bring rape charges against men are granted anonymity. So why does Lord Falconer believe the criminal justice system can justifiably suspend its important transparency for women accusers but not for the men they accuse?

The reasons given for this discrimination are utterly preposterous. The barrister Baroness Kennedy anonymity for women was essential because otherwise they would not bring their accusations forward, on account of the 'stigma' attached to making such claims.

Now, no one should minimise the ordeal for a woman in not only having to face her attacker in court and having to give evidence of a highly distasteful kind, but in facing crossexamination which inevitably calls into question her own character and morals.

But what about the stigma that attaches to men who are unjustly charged?

For the concern that women won't bring charges if they are identified totally ignores the fact that a steady stream of men who are thus accused are subsequently shown to be innocent. Yet their reputations and careers have nevertheless been ruined.

Prejudice Last year, for example, the Australian snooker player Quinten Hann was cleared of raping a student. He said he felt that he was the victim, after a nine-month investigation and six-day trial during which he consistently claimed his accuser had been a willing partner.

The rugby player Hywel Jenkins was cleared of rape in just five minutes after the Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough evidence to put him on trial.

Afterwards, he said he had endured 'seven weeks of hell' after being accused by a 28-year-old woman of raping her during a party.

Giving women the protection of anonymity means it is more likely that women will make such false accusations.

But then, the monstrous presumption beneath this bill is that all women are truthful and all men who are accused of rape are guilty.

The reason for the bill is that the Government believes there are not enough convictions for rape. It thinks too many men are being acquitted of rape who are actually guilty.

It is simply astonishing that people who purport to understand the rule of law and care about the presumption of innocence can say not enough people are being convicted. On whose say-so? By what criteria?

Do they have any reason for thinking any of these acquitted men are guilty of rape? Of course not. It is merely their prejudice - a pathological belief in male sexual guilt.

It is not even the case that rape convictions are particularly low.

Convictions for murder, for example, are running at 40 per cent, with convictions for rape at 41 per cent. But no one suggests 'not enough' people are being convicted for murder.

There may be a variety of reasons for the low number of rape convictions, just as there
are for other crimes. The incompetence of the Crown Prosecution Service is undoubtedly a factor in not properly assessing the evidence in cases that fail to convince the jury.

But one of the most likely reasons why convictions have fallen is that rape claims have become highly ambiguous through the dramatic changes in sexual mores.

While the number of rapes by complete strangers has gone down, the frequency of casual sexual encounters has caused a steep rise in claims of 'date rape'.

This is clearly far less straightforward than a case where a woman claims she has been pounced upon in a dark alley.

Extreme A sexual encounter freely entered into but where, at some point, the woman may have changed her mind, or where one or both partners were drunk, poses very tricky problems of judgment for juries.

So not surprisingly, they are reluctant to convict - especially for a crime which can result in life imprisonment.

But such an obvious explanation is dismissed out of hand because it assumes that women may not always be victims indeed, that they may even be partly responsible for what has happened to them but are not prepared to take any responsibility for it.

And this contravenes the cardinal tenet of extreme feminism - the assumption that men are intrinsically rapists, wife-beaters, child abusers and generally violent individuals, that women are their prey and that society additionally loads the dice against the female sex.

Lady Kennedy actually said in the Lords: 'To treat as equal those who are unequal creates further injustice.' So women are to be given a protection denied to men, despite the proven injustice of innocent men having their reputations ruined by women because women are supposed to be the victims of society!

To paraphrase George Orwell, all animals have equal rights but women have more equal rights than others.

No-one should be surprised that the Government, unabashed by the eloquent arguments mounted in the Lords against this proposed injustice, is refusing to admit it was wrong.

For it has been captured by an ultra-feminist agenda promoted by pressure groups which have put down deep roots within government - in the Home Office in particular.

So determined are ministers to pursue this anti-man vendetta that the Sexual Offences Bill loads the court dice drastically against male defendants.

Until now, a man accused of rape could use the defence that he honestly believed the woman had given her consent. The bill not only removes that defence, but reverses the burden of proof.

Now, the man will have to prove that no reasonable person could have doubted that the woman gave her consent to sex.

Proof The inclusion of that last objective' test, the Lords heard, means that even if the defendant honestly believes the woman had consented, he might still be convicted.

In other words, the test he will have to meet to be acquitted is now being set impossibly high.

Civil libertarians like Lady Kennedy, who would die in the last ditch to defend the presumption of innocence, usually pronounce that ten guilty people should go free rather than one innocent person be convicted.

They ruthlessly use the Human Rights Act to pursue such principles through the courts.

Yet they suddenly put all that into screaming reverse when it comes to fighting the sex war.

Rigging the justice system in this way is based on sheer malicious, vicious prejudice against men - mostly driven through, ironically, by male politicians, in thrall to a feminist agenda they are too wimpish to confront.