Monday, June 15, 2009

Rape convictions: 'A shameful stain on our criminal justice system'

This is part 2 in a 3 part series of articles posted by the Evening News in Edinburgh Scotland.

Comments are italicized and in bold.

Shameful stain on justice system, or is the system working as it should?

The abysmal conviction rate in rape cases is a shameful stain on Scotland's proud criminal justice system.

Not even three per cent of allegations ends in a guilty verdict. That either means 97 per cent of people – the vast majority of them women – who cry rape are liars or there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the police and courts handle their claims.

Only a fool or the worst kind of misogynist would back the former.

Lets start here. Why is it not reasonable to conclude that, at least good portions of those claims are false, and therefore there are liars? The attempt to shame anyone who doesn’t agree with this point of view by branding them fools or misogynists, makes this not an article, but a gender driven fluff piece touting the standard Gender Feminists/Rape-Industrial-Complex line.

Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini has taken an impressive lead in challenging the failings. When she was Solicitor General she ordered a review of how sexual offences are prosecuted, and 50 recommendations are being implemented, including new specialist rape investigation teams and better training for those who deal with victims.

While review of procedure is a good idea, would it be a stretch to actually publish what those recommendations are?

The Scottish Parliament is also in the final stages of approving laws which will further tighten the law by bringing in new definitions for assaults and, crucially, making it clear that consent to sex must be given freely – and can be taken away at any time.

So, who will it be incumbent upon to prove that the consent is given freely? The defendant, or the prosecution? Based on the tone of the article, it will be on the defendant to prove innocence, not the prosecution to prove guilt.

The moves to protect women are to be applauded, especially given that in the Lothians last year only five out of 170 rape claims sent to prosecutors led to a guilty verdict. The quicker new tougher laws are in force the better.

But will it be enough? Last month Ann Robertson, a witness in a rape trial, was jailed overnight for fleeing the High Court when it all became too much for her. And last Friday cage fighter Edgar Kudzhoyan was jailed for just 30 months after being found guilty of raping a teenager.

So rather than look at the cases to see how many were blatantly false, or had no proof other than the word of the accuser, lets put new tougher laws in place to punish potentially innocent men.

As for Ann Robertson, I would imagine she was found in contempt of court, and that is why she was in jail overnight, not because she filed a rape report. And while I would agree that Edgar Kudzhoyan being imprisoned for 30 months is a light sentence for the rape of a teenager, how many innocent men have spent much more time in jail? The draconian way they are “toughening” up the laws, will likely result in more of that occurring, not less.

All of which suggests that a complete change of culture is needed before Scottish courts give rape victims the justice they deserved. A rethink on our laws on corroboration should be debated as part of that.

This last part is what will be covered in the 3rd article in this series. As they say in show business…… stay tuned.