Thursday, 19 May 2011

Ken Clarke: An apology

I should declare at the outset that I like Ken Clarke. A genuine political heavyweight of the old school, his gravitas and class bring me a welcome sense of comfort whenever he appears on Question Time, always outshining the manufactured young Party people propped up against him.

So I felt quite sad that, at his age and with his record, he was hounded yesterday into a very 21st century PC apology.

What did he have to apologise for? He stated, publicly, that there are different degrees of crime - a concept which the learned judges have regard to every day when sentencing in the criminal courts. What is the difference between him saying in a radio interview that there are varying degrees of severity in offences of rape, and a judge explaining that he has based his sentencing decision on the very same principles?

We are familiar with sliding scales of 'badness' in non-sexual assaults, where the law actually defines different offences dependent upon the outcome. There is a possibility of such a framework being introduced for murder offences, like the American degrees. Indeed, if one considers homicide then we already have this distinction with the offences of manslaughter and murder. So if we are happy with the principle for the most serious of all offences, and for numerous lesser crimes, why should rape be any different?

Could the answer be that rape is still viewed as an offence victimising women only (which it isn't)? Is the knee-jerk, leftist, PC view that, therefore, we must somehow treat it differently? How indignant would yesterday's critics be if we decided that all assaults, or abuse, or criminal damage should be treated the same, and removed the rider that these offences can be 'racially aggravated'? The law ought, as far as is possible within our over-sophisticated, defendant-slanted system, be consistent.

Please don't get me wrong, rape is a very serious offence, whatever the circumstances. It ruins lives, degrades, humiliates and scars minds as well as bodies. That is why we treat it so seriously, why the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. But remember that word maximum; the sentences available to judges effectively encompass the entire range. The final disposal will always depend on other factors, peculiar to the offence and the offender. We are, I think, happy to let the judges apply the sentencing rules in these cases; why are we so agitated by their boss talking about them on the radio?

1 comment:

  1. Adult sexual assaults are taken very seriously by investigators and in those we trust to process cases through the courts.

    Ask anyone outside these circles to give an example of what a rape is and the majority will give details of a man jumping out from behind a bush in a dark alley and subjecting a woman to a terrifying and brutal sexual assault.

    To those in the business of dealing with rape, these attacks are known as "Stranger rapes."

    Imagine how surprised most juries are when they are given a set of circumstances that aren't as clear cut as a stranger rape. The reality is, not many attacks are stranger rapes.

    The juror is now faced with trying to get their head around the most difficult aspect of rape: consent.

    The conviction rate is low. It is low because we only have one degree of rape. This decrees that courts give out the same sentence to the stranger rapist as it does to the boy who couldn't stop or the girl who changed her mind half way through.

    Because of this, jurors start to do what investigators haven't done for years: they judge the victim and not the accused. The case is decided upon the question of "she was asking for it" and not on what the accused did.

    If we can separate the stranger rapist from the majority of other cases, we have more chance of guilty pleas being entered early, we have more chance of conviction and overall this is better for public safety.

    I applaud Kenneth Clarke for looking at the problem, I cringe that the cause of public safety has been set back years because the PC brigade have had their feathers ruffled again. They scream when the suggestion of free speech and lateral thinking is at variance with the beliefs that they insist you must have.