I was invited onto a Radio 5 talk show not so long ago, hosted by the ubiquitous Nicky Campbell who, when he isn’t hosting some programme or other of dubious provenance, is extolling the virtues of equally dubious lawyers offering compensation for injury or loss, real or imagined.
Anyway, the subject under discussion and on which I had been invited to comment was the hoary old chestnut of rape and consent. You may remember my article on this some months ago entitled She was gagging for it, and before I could draw breath, the Feministas and their cohorts were at the palace gates, baying for my blood. What so excited them was the front page headline in the Daily Mirror which read: “If a woman is drunk, it can’t be rape.”
One of the problems with our instant gratification society is the unwillingness of so many to read beyond the sound bite, and so it was with my article. Once the dust had settled, many of the more mature comments came from readers who had bothered to read the whole article, and not just the headline. What I wrote then, and I repeat now, is that drunken consent is still consent, and anybody indulging in sexual intercourse should not be liable to prosecution.
I reminded Campbell and his listeners that the definition of rape included the important proviso that an accused person is guilty of rape if the complainant does not consent AND the accused does not reasonably believe that she consents. So there is an onus on the accused. It goes further: whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps the accused has taken to ascertain whether the complainant consents. All this and more is to be considered by the jury when deciding if the complainant has been raped.
Back to Campbell and the subject under discussion. It was whether or not young people should be required to attend ‘consent lessons’, and a brave and articulate student had written an article in his student rag stating “I don’t have to be taught to not be a rapist.” Somewhat lacking in syntax, that’s universities for you, but the message was clear enough. The lad in question was 19 years old.
He suffered the same furore as me, but as a ‘veteran’ lawyer, at least according to the Daily Mirror, I had broad shoulders and could withstand the brickbats. For his part, he was subjected to venomous criticism and appalling abuse at a relatively tender age. Embarking as he does at the beginning of life in the market place, clutching his totally useless degree and weighed down by enormous student debt, he is fearful that this explosion of vilification will affect his career prospects.
If it helps, he has my unqualified support, not only for saying what needs to be said, but also for refusing to be intimidated against all the odds. And as for those baying for his blood, shut up and get a life.
PS. Important news hot off the press. Scientists have discovered a drug that can extend the life of old dogs by as much as 4 years. Very good news indeed for all those old dogs in the legal profession still clinging to the wreckage.