This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.


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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shh - it's the R Word

Kenneth Clarke has become the latest politician to say something stupid about rape and is now experiencing the wrath of feminists everywhere.  As a massive proponent of improvements to rape investigation and prosecution, I am not so sure this is a sensible bandwagon - apart from for Ed Milliband, who probably needs to jump on any wagon passing at the moment.

Every crime in British statute has a list of "aggravating" and "mitigating" factors used by the judge for passing sentence.  This is because while law is black and white, real life is accepted to be scales of grey.  To suggest that rape is any different is nonsensical, not to mention unhelpful to judges.

Aggravating factors might be:
  • Group offence (gang rape).
  • High level of violence or threats.
  • Child present/nearby.
  • Element of trespass/burglary.
  • False imprisonment/repeated rapes.
Most rapes don't contain the above, hence why they are aggravating factors rather than just a common feture of the crime.  It's hard to think of any mitigating factors for rape, as with murder, but the limited mental capacity of the offender could perhaps be one.

So it is commonsense to suggest that rape is like other crimes, and varies in its degree.  Where feminist activists get into difficulties is in trying to put across that even those rapes that appear less violent/savage on the surface, can have just as profound an impact on the victim.  In the same way, a "minor" street robbery or burglary can traumatise a victim significantly, whilst someone who has been stabbed or beaten up might shake it off.  As a criminal, you are dicing with the mental health of your victim whatever crime you inflict on them, and the results are unpredictable.  How you take this into account when sentencing is tricky.

Kenneth Clarke is an intelligent man, and I think he understands the above.  However, I fear he has fallen into the date rape trap.  Just because a rape happens after the offender identifies his victim from among his drinking party, or within the nightclub, and sets in course a series of events that will result in him getting to have sex - with or without consent - does not make it a less serious example of rape.  It may in fact make him a predatory offender, repeating his crime week after week with no one ever reporting it due to what they see as their own "guilt" in allowing it to happen.  Equally, it may be a guy who went home with a girl fully expecting consensual sex, who makes an ill-judged and repellant decision to force her when she changes her mind.  Both are date rapes, but perhaps the premeditation and recidivist nature of the first offender merits a greater sentence.

As well as misunderstanding the nature of date rape, I think that Mr Clarke has also made the mistake that many judges in both rape and violence cases make: that along with the sentence, they are passing a judgment on whether the offence has actually occurred.  I recently sat in on an ABH trial where two defendants were found guilty, and the judge summed up saying, "I am willing to accept there was an element of self-defence, and that you may have thought he had a knife."  At which my jaw dropped, because this was the main feature of the defence and by finding the defendants guilty, clearly the jury had not been convinced.  Yet it seemed the judge had license to override that and sentence the men as if they were innocent.  

I see this in rape cases too, where having been found or pleaded guilty, the defence put forwards mitigation that "she gave confusing signals" or "they were drunk", and this is then used by the judge to reduce the sentence when those excuses have already been discounted by the jury.  In Kenneth Clarke's mind, date rapes are harder to prove and often have conflicting evidence.  He is muddling up the seriousness of a genuine case of rape, date or otherwise, with examples where rape cannot be proved.

We all know that Kenneth Clarke thinks prison is a waste of money.  And that he would (and will) happily see violent and predatory offenders for numerous crimes walk free from court with nothing but the terrifying prospect of "probation" hanging over them.  No doubt he feels the same way about rapists.  

But it is legitimate to state that rape, like all crime, comes in many forms, and that sentencing should reflect that.  To shut down the debate, and claim otherwise, does not advance the cause of justice.


 




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'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

Rape Crisis is a charity that provides support and information for rape victims, and assistance to Rape Crisis Centres across the UK. A proportion of proceeds from my book are donated to it.

19 Comments:

Blogger Lex Ferenda said...

Well thought out and presented post Ellie. I do think Ken Clarke is losing the plot. I would rather the Government continued to lock people up that should be locked up and invest in prison education and workplace training. Leaving it to the Probation Service, who are under resourced too, but also naive and incompetent is a recipe for disaster.
But I wonder who will get the blame when crime rates start rising over the next few years? Lex

19 May, 2011 09:07

 
Anonymous Borka said...

I think he said that there was serious rape, and also cases of date rape and under age sex.
I generally agree with you in what you've written above, and I'm pleased that not all police blogs are deliberately misrepresenting Kens words to get some cheap shots at a politician.

But you've not mentioned any views on underage sex being classed as rape.
Does a school kid who fools around with a girl in the same academic year really deserve jail because her birthday is 6 months after his?

19 May, 2011 10:13

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish all police officers were like you. An excellent post - balanced, reasoned and well written.

Why have you never become actively involved in the Police Federation? Like most unions, they seem to be represented by a . . . different type of person. Some would say 'special'.

Ray.

19 May, 2011 10:55

 
Blogger Alix said...

The first balanced and well argued article I have read on this topic - thank you!

19 May, 2011 17:12

 
Anonymous painauchocolat said...

Good article Ellie.

I think the tabloids should be banning from reporting on this issue. It's too complex for them to understand.

19 May, 2011 18:03

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

Question Time tonight held for the first time in a prison.

Ken Clarke is on the panel.

Blood pressure tablets will be needed.

19 May, 2011 19:07

 
Blogger Big Fella said...

Having read both yours and Gadgets post on RAPE I found myself nodding in agreement with everything. It can be so difficult to prove as usually there are just two people involved no witnesses or cctv. Just one on one and it goes to consent mostly everytime. A few months ago we had three false claims on the bounce and it just makes you sick to the stomach. The investigation uses so many resources most of which are specialist, well trained officers and specialist units. This costs so much money and we never then arrest the female/male for the false claim or at least Ive not heard of any in my force area in the years Ive been in. CID, SOCO (CSI in most forces), SOTO (specialist sexual offence trained officer) , duty doctor, duty insp, sgt and a team of officers thats without the cost of the rape suite and custody.

Still every person reporting a rape will be judged as they should as a victim and everything done for them. Mind you if theyre on their third report of being raped in as many years you start to think dont you????

19 May, 2011 21:26

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ust because a rape happens after the offender identifies his victim from among his drinking party, or within the nightclub, and sets in course a series of events that will result in him getting to have sex - with or without consent - does not make it a less serious example of rape. It may in fact make him a predatory offender, repeating his crime week after week with no one ever reporting it due to what they see as their own "guilt" in allowing it to happen.

**applause***

19 May, 2011 22:39

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Borka- please provide an example of a case where a 17yo boy has gone to prison for sleeping consensually with a 15yo girl. It does not get prosecuted and no one goes to prison.

19 May, 2011 23:03

 
Blogger swanseajock said...

I think Clark was cornered by Victoria Derbyshire. The thread of his arguement was that criminals who pled guilty would be rewarded by 50%. it was she who kept mentioning rape. Why not murder, assault, theft or even child abuse? Because rape is emotive and makes good radio.

20 May, 2011 00:28

 
OpenID inspectorgadget said...

The public/media are simply not ready/able to have a serious debate about these issues.

This is why we shouldn't have elected police commissioners.

20 May, 2011 03:22

 
Blogger Kimpatsu said...

I recently sat in on an ABH trial where two defendants were found guilty, and the judge summed up saying, "I am willing to accept there was an element of self-defence, and that you may have thought he had a knife." At which my jaw dropped, because this was the main feature of the defence and by finding the defendants guilty, clearly the jury had not been convinced.
Could you give details here? I'm interested because British self-defence laws are insufficiently robust, and I fear a miscarriage of justice might have occurred.

20 May, 2011 06:00

 
Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Kimpatsu - this happens in cases nationwide, daily. Often the charge has already been dropped from a higher form of assault to start with, and the judge then effectively reduces it again.

20 May, 2011 08:43

 
Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Balanced and brilliant piece Ellie.

It is the experience such as yours, with all the evidence of recent complaint you will have witnessed that is so valuable.

It is a pity that Mr Clarke can't seek his guidance from the front line of the problem.

Steve
Thin Blue Line UK

20 May, 2011 08:51

 
Anonymous Borka said...

PC Bloggs, I can't provide an example. That's my point, and I think yours.
Although it is (AFAIK) legally rape it's not going to result in a sentence.
It is a non-serious case of rape (or perhaps, less serious).
I think it's an insult to people who were genuinely raped to call consensual under age sex by the same name.
I also think it's verging on an insult that the attack on a woman who was gang raped by 5 men and can no longer have kids be considered 'as serious' as the woman who was so drunk she can't remember saying Yes.

It's a massive amount of mania over the choice of the word 'serious'.
Consider a car crash where someone dies. It's horrible, it's serious to the victims family, but to the emergency crews on site it's just another days work.
It takes a multi-car pile up with many fatalities to be considered serious.

I'm not disagreeing with you, I think I'm agreeing with you, but from a different point of view.

20 May, 2011 11:09

 
Blogger Lex Ferenda said...

@ Borka - I think you are still missing the point. It is NOT rape to have consensual sex with a girl under 16. A 17 year old boyfriend having consensual (but unlawful) sex with a 15 year old girlfriend commits an offence of having unlawful sex with a girl under 16 but will never end up charged unless there are extraordinary circumstances. The maximum sentence for unlawful sex with a girl aged 13 to 15 is 2 years.
A 40 year old man having sex with a 12 year old girl will be viewed very differently. The circumstances MAY amount to rape but even if it is deemed to be consensual sex, the man will almost certainly be charged with unlawful sex with a girl under 13. The maximum sentence for unlawful sex with a girl under 13 is life imprisonment. This reflects that it can be as serious as rape, which carries the same maximum sentence. I hope that helps.

Regards the gang rape and the girl who gets drunk, I agree to some extent and that is why all sentences for rape are not the same. Rape is always serious but some cases deserve the maximum sentence whereas others may not.

I don't agree with your analogy regarding fatal road accidents. I think you are at risk here of being even more clumsy with your words than Ken Clarke. I have been to many fatal accidents and they are always serious and never just another days work. The 16 year old boy on his bike squashed by a lorry. The motorcyclist who hits a lamp-post so hard he is cut in two. The drunk driver who slams into a tree. Even the latter is serious. I don't think you would appreciate it if you were the relative that we came and informed and treated it any other way. Lex

20 May, 2011 12:18

 
Blogger Nationalist said...

I have reviewed two well-known rape cases on my blog here, just to show that Ken Clarke is right: rape ISN'T rape; it's just the Marxist wing of the sisterhood trying to shut down debate on the subject.

20 May, 2011 13:37

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently sat in on an ABH trial where two defendants were found guilty, and the judge summed up saying, "I am willing to accept there was an element of self-defence, and that you may have thought he had a knife." At which my jaw dropped, because this was the main feature of the defence and by finding the defendants guilty, clearly the jury had not been convinced.

Is this totally incompatible? Is it not possible for the jury to decide that a reasonable man would not have thought that the victim had a knife but for the judge to agree that the defendant may have had an unreasobale belief that he might have been armed?

Zac

20 May, 2011 14:28

 
Blogger Lex Ferenda said...

@ Nationalist - your blog is entitled British Nationalist but you then write a blog using rape cases from Israel and America to make your point. The 'sisterhood' as you call them sometimes don't do their cause any favours but your comments are offensive. Rape is rape and all cases are serious but I agree that some are more serious than others.
If you wish to be taken seriously I suggest you use examples of the law in this country.
There are parallels with the Jewish/Muslim woman in the example you gave. Are you aware that grooming a women by pretending to be single when you are really married and then having sex is an offence in this country? It isn't rape but it is an offence. I don't have a problem with that. Lex

20 May, 2011 20:02

 

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