Conservative Commentary
"the blogger whose youthful effusions have won him bookmarks all over Whitehall ... horribly compelling" - The Guardian
Great Weblogs
The Enemy Within

Most recent posts ...

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Why rape conviction rates keep falling

The Telegraph reports that with rape convictions not rising to keep pace with accusations, the conviction rate for the crime is now at an all-time low. Either an awful lot of rapes are being committed, or an awful lot of potentially life-destroying false accusations are being made - probably both. Whichever way one looks at it, it's a depressing figure.

Now I would myself say that the general social climate is the most important factor here. But I've noticed that when it comes to these sorts of sexual issues, there are essentially two mindsets. There is the mindset which can ask whether a general life's motto of "If it feels good, do it", and a social attitude that casts no stigma on loveless promiscuity and in DumbJon's words treats as utter lunacy the idea that not acting on a sexual impulse might sometimes be a good idea, might be factors here. Those who ponder such questions might even, with Roger Scruton, consider the following:

Of course, if you think that nothing is at stake in our sexual relations besides pleasure, and that everything that happens between consenting adults is morally unimpeachable, then you will see nothing wrong with pornography.

But if you think in this way you will be hard pressed to understand the enormous value that people have placed on sexual love, the central role that it has played in their lives, or the fear and alarm with which they contemplate its desecration. You will fail to understand the torments of jealousy, the joy of requited love, or the sacrifices that are made for fidelity's sake. You will be hard pressed to explain why rape is a crime more serious than theft, why paedophilia is evil, why sexual harassment is more than just a nuisance, and why prostitution is degrading.

It would be interesting to hear an answer from those who do defend these attitudes. Unfortunately, there is the other mindset, which explodes in a mixture of rage and feigned mirth at the idea that treating sexual acts in this way might foster a climate where sexual crimes are treated less seriously. And it's a mindset that simply cannot consider these issues in a rational way. For them, consent is the only moral barrier, and the very idea that others once served to do good and to protect the vulnerable cannot compute. So I'll not write at length on this question.

What I will say is that the recommendations that always come out on these issues should be scrutinized with the greatest care. The move of recent years has been in one direction: to remove evidence from trials in the hope that this will enable more prosecutions. Preventing cross-questioning of those who make the accusations by defendants and stopping defence lawyers from casting doubt upon the character and credibility of the accusers may appear to establish that it is the defendant alone who is on trial. But in cases of crimes where almost invariably it is one person's word against another, the credibility of both these people is by definition a central issue.

By making it impossible for trials to cover such issues as the woman's character and sexual history, enormous doubts are automatically created in the jury's mind. The prosecution cannot any longer point to just how strong a character and a record for honesty in these matters she has and how unlikely it is that she really consented to the sexual act in question.

Women of all sexual behaviours are raped. But only women of a certain character would consent to sex and then lie about it later. When evidence on these matters is banned from trials, for the jury to distinguish between the two is much more difficult, and anyone making such accusations could potentially be the most malicious liar. And because, rightly, we have a system in this country where a person is innocent until proven guilty, making these doubts a permanent feature of rape trials can only benefit the defendant whose guilt would otherwise be much clearer.

It shouldn't be difficult to see why preventing the bringing of evidence forward in trials will reduce, not enhance, the quality of the verdicts juries reach. Unfortunately, the political correctness that dares not admit that a woman who has half a dozen sexual partners a month is more likely to have consented is now taking precedence over this fact in the minds of our legislators. The effect of this trend is not, and will not be, more guilty rapists convicted, but more guilty rapists walking free, because the credibility of their accusers could no longer be established.

Great Sites
Tory Party
Reading ...