Men Face Rape Charge Unless They Can Show Consent Of Drunk Women
Men who have sex with women who are not fully sober risk being found guilty of rape unless they have their consent, under controversial new proposals. Ministers want to close a legal loophole which means that thousands of cases fail to reach the courts because victims have been drinking.
At present, women are deemed to be capable of consenting to sex as long as they are not so drunk that they are unconscious.
But under the new plans, which could be unveiled as early as next month, juries will be given the power to decide whether a woman was sober enough to know what she was doing.
The initiative follows concerns about a link between the growing problem of binge drinking and allegations of rape.
Solicitor General Mike O’Brien believes the law needs to be changed to make it easier to jail rapists who deliberately get their victims drunk.
The Metropolitan Police say one in three women who claim they have been raped have been drinking. In many case, police advise women to drop the complaint because they stand little chance of being believed in court.
Fewer than six per cent of rape allegations end in successful convictions.
Under the new plans, the legal definition of consent could be rewritten to make clear that women who are drunk could not have agreed to sex.
It raises the possibility that even if a woman agreed to sex while drunk, a jury could decide she was too inebriated to give meaningful consent.
This places a heavy burden of responsibility on men to ensure that a woman is fully conscious of her actions and has agreed to make love.
Earlier this year, a judge threw throw out a rape case in which the alleged victim was too drunk to remember what happened.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Mr O’Brien said: “In non-stranger rapes, the issue is usually one of consent. There are usually two people involved, one of whom will deny consent and the other who will insist that consent was given.
“The issue becomes particularly difficult when there is alcohol involved. What we have to do is to find ways of ensuring that when a rape occurs, the rapist is convicted, but that we don’t create miscarriages of justice.”
Mr O’Brien is also looking at plans to show juries video footage of victims giving their first interview to police often hours after the alleged attack has taken place.
It follows concern that some juries have been taken by surprise by the lack of emotion shown by women in the witness box when the give evidence.
He said: “Women are individuals and react in different ways.”
Police recorded 14,449 allegations of rape last year, one of the highest figures so far. Only one in 19 men were convicted.
Earlier this year, a rape trial collapsed when a female student from Aberystwyth University admitted she had been so drunk that she could not remember if she had refused or given consent for sex.
In the case at Swansea Crown Court, the judge ruled that ‘drunken consent is still consent’ – and instructed the jury to return a ‘not guilty’ verdict, even if they did not agree.
Opponents of the new proposals fear that they will create a legal minefield and may encourage some women to make allegations of rape when they regret having had sex while drunk.
George McAuley, chairman of the UK Men’s Movement, said men may have to resort to obtaining written ‘contracts’ or using their mobile phones to film their partners consenting to sex.
He said: “Radical feminists within the Labour party have made consensual heterosexual sex a dangerous minefield. The changes in legislation will increase the number of innocent men convicted of rape.
“It means men will have to get a consent form signed, dated and countersigned in triplicate before they make love.
“This legislation is deliberately designed to put more men behind bars.”