GAGGING FOR IT

My daughter, an extremely attractive twenty three year old, recently went “clubbing” with some girlfriends. Her ‘stepping out’ gear was a joy to behold, certainly to the rutting male, although, as her father, it raised parental eyebrows. When I asked her the next morning if she’d enjoyed herself, her answer was: “We were seriously overdressed!”

We’ve all seen them, every Friday and Saturday night, in every town and city in Little Britain, and in all weathers, gaggles of giggling girls teetering along the street in ridiculous high heels and skirts barely covering the essentials, on their way to some ‘dive’ or insalubrious and overpriced nightclub to get seriously lashed. A colleague of mine described these skirts, somewhat crudely, as “Fanny Pelmets.” And what is our reaction? Almost without exception, we say: “They’re asking for trouble!” And then we read of some girl, heavily intoxicated, crying ‘rape’ and claiming compensation.

Which brings me seamlessly onto the news that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority [CICA] has recently reduced the compensation it would otherwise have awarded a rape victim because she was lashed at the time, and presumably, giving every appearance that she was ‘gagging’ for it. This approach has been criticised by a spokesperson for the government, who tells us that a rape victim is a rape victim regardless of the circumstances, full stop.

When I was young, all those years ago, and looking for a mate, the local ‘dive’ or watering hole was an obvious place to begin my search. It was a chance for a good chat up line: “Hello darling, you look fabulous tonight, fancy a drink?” and if the answer was yes, then the coupling ritual began. First the ‘groove’ on the dance floor, with the ‘solid gone’ expression fixed firmly in place, then back to the bar to bellow sweet nothings in her ear, and then, after a suitable interval, the walk or ride home, wondering all the time, will she, won’t she? And if my mate for the night looked as if she were up for it, I had expectations.

The principle of contributory negligence in the law has been with us since time began, and usually applied to personal injury claims. As a student, the case of the fat lady locked in a lavatory was required reading. You will remember it well. The unfortunate lady, in attempting to release herself, used the lavatory roll holder to climb out. Sadly, the holder could not bear her weight, so it, and she, collapsed in a heap of paper and heaving flesh, and when she claimed damages for the injuries suffered, she was found to have contributed to them, and the damages were reduced accordingly.

Surely the CICA approach is a fair one, taking into account, as it did, all the circumstances of the cases under review. If silly girls go out on the town bursting out all over, and getting hopelessly drunk, then, as I say, they’re asking for trouble, and they usually find it.

But we are locked into this absurd compensation culture, where fault and contributory negligence are ignored, where claims without merit are often met with handsome payouts by insurers who simply can’t be bothered to contest them for fear of being penalised in costs, and we, the sensible members of society, are penalised in higher premiums.

I don’t suppose there is anything the CICA can do about this latest government meddling, as it is a creature of statute, and the government is free to interpret the statutory rights of its citizens as they think fit. Nevertheless, more’s the pity that the government cannot apply a modicum of common sense when determining these claims, and let the CICA get on with its job. And besides, it would send out a clear message to those who deliberately choose to put themselves at risk when it could so easily be avoided.

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david

David is an English barrister, writer, public performer and keynote speaker. His full profile can be found on his website.

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